Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Game is Never Just a Game

If you are raised by a serial killer, taught his ways, and everything you learned as a child had something to do with maiming and dismembering, do you think there would be a chance you could turn out normal? For Jasper Dent, that is the question that haunts every thought in his head and every decision he makes. Game by Barry Lyga is the chilling sequel to I Hunt Killers where the Dent family has even more to worry about than a psychopathic father.

Jasper (Jazz) can't help blame himself for the deaths of the guards when his father, Billy Dent, the most notorious serial killer you can imagine, escaped from jail. He didn't know that moving his grandmother's birdbath for Billy would set off a chain reaction that sprung his father from jail. Now Billy is on the loose. But when an NYC officer comes to Lobo's Nod to find Jazz, there is more to worry about than just Billy. New York is being terrorized by a serial killer that is so scattered in his method, the police are finding it impossible to get any leads on him. The Hat-Dog killer's only calling card is he etches either a Hat or a Dog into his victims when he leaves their bodies to be found, but there is no rhyme or reason for who gets which tag. And no victimology fits any one hunting pattern. This killer is a mystery, but even worse, he is brutal. His victims know the face of true evil.

Jazz is reluctant at first to get involved. After the Impressionist stalked him in an effort to become the next Billy Dent, Jazz has absolutely no interest in putting the ones he loves in danger. But when he looks at the evidence, he realizes his unique knowledge might be the thing to catch Hat-Dog. Being inside a serial killer's brain isn't easy, but if Jazz can use it to catch another killer, he is willing to take that risk. Unfortunately, all that time in the head of a killer brings Jazz's own concerns and thoughts to the undeniable surface. The closer he gets to the surface, the more Jazz worries about his own proclivities. And this killer isn't easy to crack. But there is more than what is on the surface that should scare Jazz- Billy is still out there.

This series is simply phenomenal. It is gruesome, exciting, and heart-wrenching. The serial killers themselves are a Mind Hunter's dream and nightmare all rolled into one. You can't believe how Jazz comes to the conclusions he does, but then again, you can't imagine being the son of a serial killer. And that is the true heart of this story. Jazz. He is so tormented by his father that even getting physically intimate with the girl he loves is terrifying, because serial killers almost always have a sexual need that motivates their killing. Getting in the head of this boy is so fascinating and heartbreaking, it makes you wish you could save him from himself. He wants so badly to be a good person, but the ghosts of his father's lessons huants him more than the actual killers themselves.

But there is something to be said for an amazing support network. And Jazz certainly has one. Between his girlfriend Connie and his hemophiliac (and consequently very delicate) best friend Howie, Jazz has people who love him and will do anything to help and protect him. Of course that love leads to even more danger, but the idea that they would do anything for Jazz is really incredible. They even carry their own demons regarding Jazz's family (Howie beats himself up about how he could spend so much time with Jazz and NOT know the truth about Billy), but that makes them even more amazing. They know everything, but they still love Jazz enough to do anything for him. It is Connie and Howie who make Jazz human, and you can't help but love them for it.

This is a great story for anyone who likes murder mysteries, is a fan of "Dexter", or just loves a good story, because you would be crazy if you didn't think Lyga could write. Man, that boy can write! Barry Lyga knows characters, he can write a plot that keeps you guessing until the last possible second, and he never ceases to shock you (which is pretty hard considering the books are about gruesome serial killers). This is a great series for an older reader who needs something to grab their attention and HOLD it! But the way it ends? Oh lord. How could you do this to me Mr. Lyga? I am dying over here!!

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