By Lauren Beukes
Mulholland Books (2014), Hardcover, 448 pages
An exceptional cross between a Horror story, and a crime thriller-set in the decaying city of Detroit, Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes is a huge story constructed from many smaller ones.The spotlight is on Detective Gabriella (Gabi) Versado, a salty divorced single mother who is working around the clock to solve the gruesome murder of an 11-year-old boy. What sets this case apart from the usual cases, is that this child was cut in half and his torso was fused with the lower portion of a deer.
The little stories include Gabi’s daughter Layla, a typical teenager from a broken home who traverses the usual teen drama, such as trying to fit in with the cool crowd, meeting boys, and doing well in school. She also adds extracurricular activities such as shaming online pedophiles at gunpoint with her mysterious friend Cas. There are little story lines involving characters from a church homeless shelter, a community of artists, and a video-journalist named Jonno who struggles to make his name at all costs. All of these characters are either impacted, or involved with the crazed serial killer who happens to be a tortured artist possessed by an entity that turns dreams into 3D reality with alarming results.
The manner in which the murders take place are chilling, and altogether different from the usual fare, with an ending that is both action-packed and thought-provoking. What I most liked about this book is the attention spent on the problems within a city that is falling apart; issues of race, class, police ineptitude and lack of services are all brought to the forefront of the story. Also of interest is the author’s treatment of the modern conundrum of the internet and instant video streaming, which plays a major role in both the causes of many of the murders, as well as the end results.
I would love to see Broken Monsters turned into a film, because if produced correctly, it has the potential to be a blockbuster. I can see Michelle Rodriguez as Gabi Versado. This was a multi-faceted story with enough weight (448 pages) to build up a good level of suspense and an ample plot. Highly recommended for readers of Horror, crime fiction and thrillers.