Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
I finished reading Broken Monsters a couple of days ago but wanted time to reflect before writing a review. This is a dark and menacing story looking at the lives of a few people and the impact they feel when a young boy is found murdered. Did I enjoy this? No, enjoy would be the wrong word to use here. Was I spellbound? Yes. This is a story that gets under your skin and compels you to read on. Beukes has a very honest way of writing. Her characters are flawed and their dialogue is realistically to the point. There are no rose tinted glasses here, just gritty realism served up with a menacing murder plot.
This is a horror come chiller/thriller with a supernatural take although this is very lightly done.
At the start of the story a young boy is discovered murdered and mutilated in such a horrific way that the press and police immediately label the murderer ‘the monster’. From there it becomes obvious that the murders will continue and the police become embroiled in a race to catch the killer before he continues on his mission.
The creepy thing with this book is the element of uncertainty. The fear that maybe the next character I was reading about might actually become the killer’s latest victim. And there were definitely characters here that I liked.
All the characters have their own personal demons and struggles to cope with and come from all walks of life. Gabi is a divorced mother. A detective struggling to balance a heavy workload and inevitable hard assed cynicism with bringing up her daughter and worrying if she is doing the right thing by her. Her daughter Layla is also struggling to cope with the divorce, the loss of her father from her life who now seems to have a new family who take precedence, and also feeling something of an outcast at school where she appears to have only one real friend, Cas. Cas has her own issues. She is tormented by her past, a past that now leads her into strange and dangerous pursuits. We then have Jonno and his new young girlfriend Jen. Jonno is feeling the onset of middle age. He feels like a failure and he has latched on to Jen , younger and more optimistic with a vibrancy that he almost feeds off. He’s looking for his own fifteen minutes of fame and he has few morals when it comes to grasping that first rung! JK is the homeless hero. A likeable character. Surly and tough. He has a very dark past but his bark is definitely worse than his bite. He helps out at the homeless shelter. He’s also something of a marauder looking for abandoned properties that might still offer up something worth scavenging. And then we also have the chapters from the killer’s pov. But I’m not going to comment on that aspect but leave it to you to read and discover yourself.
Beukes is so good with characters. She manages to invoke such strong feelings. You feel the mother’s fierce love that Gabi has for Layla. You feel the power of feeling that Layla has for her mum who is basically ‘home’. You want to shout at Layla to talk to her mum and trust her and yet at the same time you know, as Layla does, that if she opens up something will surely hit the fan. Similarly with TK. He wants to do the right thing. He wants to help people and in particular he wants to make a home for his family.
This is a perfect story of broken lives that with a bit of communication can be fixed. It’s also a reflection of the current obsession with communicating through social media. It takes a look at Cyber bullying and the consequences for those involved. Harsh lessons for victims and those who victimise.
A horror story with a difference. Fairly small scale in terms of those involved which for me added to the drama in terms of making you think ‘could a killer be living amongst you’? Gives you the chills just thinking it!
Simply drawn yet deep characters. Darkly intense and chilling.
I received a copy of this from the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
I am submitting this for Stainless Steels RIP event.