By Lauren Beukes
Mulholland Books September 2014
Read via Netgalley
Gabriella Versado is surprised by few things. She is a mother and a detective for the Detroit police department. But even she is shocked by the body of a young boy that is found mutilated and attached to the body of a deer. As Gabriella tries to figure out this bizarre case, other people are drawn into the mystery. TK is a homeless man trying to help others, Jonno is a journalist trying to find the real story about what is going on in the city of Detroit, and Layla is a teen vigilante looking to catch and punish an online predator. She also happens to be Garbriella's daughter. Each of them will play a role in discovering the evil lurking in the dark corners of Detroit's abandoned buildings. But can they stop it?
Beukes excels at characterization - both of the people in her stories and of non-living entities. In her book The Shining Girls, she brought a time-traveling house to vivid and terrifying life. In Broken Monsters, the starring character may actually be Detroit itself. In a city full of deserted buildings and desperate people, it's difficult to tell where the monsters are hiding. The supernatural aspects of the story are indeed terrifying and we get just enough information to frighten while still being able to wonder about what all of this means. But there is also the feeling here that the terror is man-made, that we need no magic to commit truly depraved acts. The human heart and mind may be the darkest places of all.
It's difficult to shock people in the modern world. We hold screens all day long that can show us horrible images with just the click of a button. But Beukes is still able to surprise the reader by showing darkness in surprising places. While the idea of a serial killer on the loose who maims and bizarrely displays bodies is a terrifying one, it is more frightening to discover just what people will do at their most frightened or desperate. A good deal of the book deals with our digital age and our eagerness to share the horrors around us. By sharing them, are we participating in them?
Lauren Beukes is an incredibly talented writer who is able to do so many things at once and make it seem effortless. It's easy to classify Broken Monsters as a horror novel, and that is true. Most readers are going to have some truly bizarre dreams after reading this one. But this book is so much more than that - the characters beg to be seen, by the people in their lives and by the world that finds it so easy to ignore the abject poverty and despair that envelop the broken city of Detroit.
Check out these rejected cover designs for Broken Monsters!
I read Broken Monsters as a part of Readers In Peril.