Friday, 19 September 2014

Book review: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 1 August 2014 by HarperCollins, 528 pages.

Description: Detective Gabi Versado has hunted down many monsters during her eight years in Homicide. But she’s never seen anything like this.

He is a broken man. The ambitions which once drove him are dead. Now he has new dreams – of flesh and bone made disturbingly, beautifully real.

Detroit is the decaying corpse of the American Dream. Motor-city. Murder-city.

And home to a killer opening doors into the dark heart of humanity.

A killer who wants to make you whole again…

Rating:



When Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls made a splash on literary lists last year I was massively intrigued and it was one of those novels that was on my radar continuously as to-read and to-buy but due to an overflowing shelf of review books I unfortunately never got around to actually picking it up. So when completely unexpectedly a proof for her latest novel, Broken Monsters, arrived in my mail box a few months ago I squealed in delight at the prospect of finally getting acquainted with Beukes' writing and the interesting sounding combination of crime fiction and urban fantasy.

The first thing I have to admit before getting to the review part of this post is that I am not a fan of crime. I don't tend to read crime-related news stories, I rarely watch cop shows (the sole exception being the comedic variety, such as Castle and White Collar) and I definitely wouldn't voluntarily pick up straight up crime fiction which more often than not describes the most horrifically imagined murders into stomach-turning detail.

You'd be right to think that I am not the target audience for Beukes' novels then, so what on earth was I getting all excited for? I suppose it's the power of an exceptionally well thought-out marketing campaign and The Shining Girls landing on mainstream literary lists such as The Richard and Judy Book Club that initially peaked my interest. And it was the time travel aspect in that first novel that continued holding it. After reading the blurb for Broken Monsters I dismissed the very obvious underlying crime theme and focused on the paranormal aspect. Unfortunately that is where I went wrong.

Expecting a heavy supernatural focus within the novel, the first three-quarters of the book took me completely by surprise as it was a pretty straight-forward crime fiction novel; cop discovers (mutilated) body and goes on the hunt for the murderer who soon turns out to be a serial killer, leaving a trail of gruesome mutations in his wake. To add dept to the story we also delve into the cop's life and that of her daughter, which is to make the reader feel more connected to the 'good guys', but really only distracted from the main plot of the killer and as both Detective Gabriella Versado and her daughter Layla grated on my nerves, that didn't help me to sympathise with them either.

The paranormal aspect then, though vaguely alluded to all throughout the novel, really broke into the story in the final quarter. Unfortunately this revelation came far too late for me and made it feel like an afterthought that wasn't properly plotted or structured, rather than the vital plot point it was supposed to be. The bizarre turn the story took at this stage added a lot of confusion and was so 'out there' that it felt completely at odds with all that had gone before.

The one element that I did truly admire within this novel was the underlying theme and criticism of social media dependence. We are as a society completely obsessed with connectivity and at the same time utterly ignorant of the underlying dangers. This on its own is a powerful topic of debate and it's a shame then that Beukes' justified judgments get lost among the more vocal parts of the story that couldn't keep my interest.

The idea of combining two complex genres such as crime and urban fantasy is a fascinating one and it certainly has a lot of potential, but unfortunately the execution in Broken Monsters didn't work for me. The initial heavy focus on the gruesome murders was off-putting to a crime-novice such as myself and the paranormal elements that eventually came to the surface were condensed in too short a space; creating a disappointing and disheveled read overall.

You can purchase the novel from Waterstones, Amazon.co.uk or your own preferred retailer.



Would you like to know more about the author? You can connect with her online at:

Website: laurenbeukes.com

Twitter: @laurenbeukes

Facebook: www.facebook.com/laurenbeukes


Many thanks to the publisher for an advance copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

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