Saturday, April 21, 2012

Dexter Meets Seven

I Hunt Killers
There is nothing scarier than a serial killer.  Sure, monsters and demons are scary enough, but serial killers are out there right now, free to do as they wish. At least the monsters and demons are only a figment of my imagination. Now imagine growing up with that serial killer as your father... having a serial killer teach you his "trade". That horror is unimaginable... until Barry Lyga's I Hunt Killers.

Jazz just wants to be a normal kid, but there is no chance of normalcy when you are Billy Dent's son. Billy Dent has killed well over 100 people and is currently serving multiple life sentences with no hope of every getting out again. He taught his son well, but Jazz doesn't want to follow in Dear Old Dad's footsteps. Instead, he wants to just live his life and forget the world he was brought into. That isn't so easy when Child Protective Services wants to place him in foster care, he lives with his lunatic grandmother, and his only friend is a hemophiliac who bleeds with a simple sneeze.

When a dead girl is found in a field, Jazz knows it has the signs of serial killer, but the cops won't listen to him. The sheriff who caught his father is patient with Jazz, but he still doesn't want him near the crime scene or the evidence. But Jazz can't help himself. He knows there will be more bodies. When the bodies start piling up, the crimes look awfully similar to those of Billy Dent's earlier murders... and to the town where the serial killer lived, there is only one person who can follow in his footsteps. Jazz knows he must find the killer, not only to prove to everyone that it isn't him, but also to prove to himself that he isn't a monster like Dear Old Dad.

If you like the show "Dexter", you will like this story. It has the boundary crossing of being a serial killer and hunting a serial killer where the hunter and the hunted are eerily similar. I really loved Jazz because he desperately doesn't want to be the monster his father raised him as, but he is afraid all those years of brainwashing may have paid off. His only way to use that disturbing knowledge usefully is to find this killer before anyone else dies. He also feels somewhat responsible because he should be able to stop "his father's" crimes this second time around. Jazz is a complex character and the reader will find themselves wanting to protect him from everything he has lived through. But what impresses me the most are Jazz's girlfriend and best friend who both know his history and still care about him. They keep him as normal as possible and in Jazz's mind, the love for another person is what keeps him from ever becoming a monster. It was a lovely addition to this grim murder mystery. Finally, the sheriff who caught Billy is almost like a surrogate father figure for Jazz, caring about him and watching out for him. This book is full of complex relationships and characters that keep you from knowing what is around the corner, and I really appreciated that.

This book is certainly gruesome with the murders and dismemberment, etc. While the active serial killer is bad enough, the descriptions of Billy Dent's murders are the most gory. Not to mention the very existence of this "super killer" who knew how to defy all police expectations makes me pretty terrified! Billy Dent will give you nightmares, no doubt about it! I think this is a book for your typical high school student rather than a younger reader because some of the content is pretty bloody, but more importantly, the characters and relationships are so complex, a less mature reader will get lost in the intriguing ambiguity. The writing style is highly accessible and exciting, and this would most likely be a great book even for an adult who is interested in serial killer stories and murder mysteries. But I caution, this might not be the book for the feint of heart! And, just to warn you, the very, very end of the book will leave you hanging in a way you won't believe (and that will keep you looking out your window and behind the shower curtain!).

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