Tuesday, September 25, 2012

REVIEW: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction/Suspense
Audience: Older Teen/Young Adult
Series: Jasper Dent #1

Summary: What if your father is the most notorious serial killer of the century? What if you were trained to be the perfect killer from the time you were a child? Seventeen-year-old Jazz, son of the infamous Billy Dent, has to live with that reality every day. Jazz never truly understood how wrong his childhood was until the day Billy was arrested four years ago. As a child, Jazz played with human teeth like dice; by nine, he knew how to dissolve a body in quicklime. His father brainwashed him to believe that Dents are superior and above the laws that govern the rest of mankind. For Jazz, it is instinctive to size up his "prey," quickly assessing the best ways to charm and immobilize his victims. But Jazz hasn't killed anyone. Yet. Or, at least no one that he remembers.

Jazz's greatest fear is ending up a killer like "Dear Old Dad." Ever since his father's arrest, Jazz has been living as normal a life as possible, despite the fact that his grandmother/official guardian suffers from dementia and is notoriously strange. But now a new serial killer in on the loose in Lobo's Nod and Jazz fears his past is coming back to haunt him. So he decides to use his inside knowledge of a serial killer's mind to be on the side of good, launching his own investigation into the identity of the "Impressionist," whose crimes are eerily similar to those of Billy Dent.

First Line: "By the time Jazz got to the field outside town, yellow police tape was everywhere, strung from stake to stake in a sort of drunken, off-kilter hexagon."   

Tracy's Thoughts:
Do you love Dexter and Criminal Minds? Or maybe Chelsea Cain's Archie and Gretchen series is your cup of tea? Perhaps you wish there were more (or, any) books like this in the YA genre? Then you won't want to miss the first installment of Barry Lyga's Jasper Dent series! It's deliciously twisted—taking an all-too-realistic look at the thoughts and actions of a sociopath—without becoming overly explicit. But the restraint regarding gratuitous blood and gore actually makes I Hunt Killers all the creepier.

The mystery aspect of this book is compelling if not wholly original. For me, the true appeal was in the characterization of Jazz. Every dark thought and insight into the mind of the killer causes him to wonder if he is destined to become a killer himself. While he doesn't mind using his childhood lessons to his advantage—Jasper is a master of reading and manipulating people, knowing exactly how to smile and push the right buttons to get what he wants—he can't help feeling a prickle of guilt at the ease of it and worry that one day he will step over an invisible line he can't come back from.Still struggling (understandably) with the brainwashing of his childhood, Jazz has a personal mantra to keep himself human: "People matter. People are real." He considers it a way of "casting a shield against his own evil." And  even more intriguing than the who-is-the-killer plot thread is the mystery of Jazz's past. His mother disappeared years ago and Jazz is almost sure is father killed her, but he can't know for certain. Also, there are those events from his past that Jazz can't quite recall.

Unsurprisingly, given its parallels to other popular TV shows, I Hunt Killers may also be coming soon to the small screen—it was optioned by Warner Bros. for development early on. As for book two in the series? We'll have to wait until April 2013.


Tiffany Holbert said...

I love Dexter but I gave up in the books a while ago. I loved the creepy atmosphere of the first season and really wish they could recapture that somehow. I might have to move this book up my to-read list!

Lilian said...

I liked Dexter, but I wasn't a big fan of I Hunt Killers. I had high hopes since I do see enough horror/crime in teen lit...but I found I Hunt Killers too exaggerated and came off as lame sometimes. Jazz was a nice guy...but I couldn't connect to him at all (mostly because I though he was just too nosy.)

I think Dan Well's John Cleaver series did the teenage serial killer thing better (why that series wasn't YA boggles my mind.)

Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

Tracy said...

Sorry to hear that the book left you disappointed, Lilian. I agree that there was something missing though I can't quite put my finger on what that was for me.

*I Am Not a Serial Killer* has been on my radar for ages; I'll definitely have to give it a try soon. Thanks for the rec!

Anonymous said...

I loved the book and am anxious for the sequel. Keep them comin!

Tracy said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Anonymous. If you're anxious for the sequel, you can get a (very brief) sneak peek of GAME on Barry Lyga's website. He also promises sample chapters to come!

Dallas Search Engine Optimization said...

At first I wasn't that into this story but as it went along I did get more into it. I found it to be an OK read but I didn't like the way it ended.

Tracy said...

Glad it sparked your interest eventually :) What was it about the ending you didn't like? I find this is often the case for me when is comes to books with sequels pending. I love a series book that can successfully wrap up the plotline of the story yet still leave just enough intrigue to make you hungry for the next book. (Libba Bray's The Diviners is a great example of this.)

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