This is the second book by Lauren Beukes that I’ve read, the first being The Shining Girls, which was a genre crossover about a time-travelling serial killer. I wasn’t hugely impressed with The Shining Girls and it reaffirmed my belief that, as much as I’d love them too, genre crossovers rarely work and it’s usually better to stick to one genre in specific.
Back to Broken Monsters though, which was again another crossover novel, but this time crossing a serial killer with some horror/fantasy thrown in. To be honest, this felt more like a regular crime novel with just a little fantasy/horror added throughout, especially at the end. I did enjoy it though, even if it was meagre and wished there was more. A bit at the end reminded me of a Clive Barker I’ve read.
The book revolves around Detective Gabi Versado who, at the start of the book, discovers a body that is half-boy merged with half-deer. She is then thrust into the centre of an investigation to discover the perpetrator of this bizarre crime and although she remains the focal point, a whole host of other characters come into the mix and narrate their own sections.
As I mentioned, we have Gabi at the centre of the novel, then there are sections from Gabi’s daughter. A few people have commented that these sections, which are many, can be quite annoying as they have a distinctly YA feel, Layla (Gabi’s daughter) being fifteen. Then we have a guy called Johno, a would-be writer, Clayton who is an 'artist' and finally TK, a homeless man who has dedicated a large portion of his life to trying to help people in a similar situation. This amount of characters confused me to begin with, but the further into the novel, the more I got to know them and the easier it became. I didn’t connect with any of them and most were unlikeable. I was quite interested to know how these characters would come together, but this didn’t happen until the latter part and wasn’t as great as I’d hoped.
Each section is narrated in the third person present and then we have a couple of sections that occurred before, which are in the past.
Throughout this book I didn’t feel any tension, but think this was largely intended. I did, however, really want to know how things would come together, which is what kept me interested. I don’t think the structure here was as strong as it could have been and let the book down. Another thing is, I was listening to a great audio-version which had a few separate narrators, so that enhanced my enjoyment.
One of the great strengths of this was the imagery. It was a very visceral experience and I could see everything in my minds-eye. Sense of place was excellent too, especially when we explored the darker side of Detroit. The reader never forgot where they were, which I really appreciate in a book.
One of the great things here was how reality was blended into the narrative and given consideration in the form of dreams. It definitely made me think, which I appreciate.
I’m glad I read it and would recommend it. It’s not a particularly hard read, so is easy enough, just mostly strange.
Overall, I think that the way the author has structured things will leave most people feeling a little empty.