No one, not even seasoned Detroit detective Gabi Versado, could be prepared for the body found in the woods. Half is the remains of a young Black boy. The other half was a faun. They’ve been joined together by unknown means. But is is far from the strangest thing Versado will encounter in Lauren Beukes’ shatteringly wonderful novel, Broken Monsters.
Clayton Broom is just one of many struggling artists in dying, bohemian Detroit. He’s just not quite good enough to break out of the pack. He frightens people because he spouts cryptic and disturbing things. He gets worse after he accidentally kills a deer with his car after chasing an ex-girlfriend. After this, as the art dealers would say, he had a breakthrough. As Broken Monsters progresses, we learn just what Clayton—or the thing inside him—are trying to do.
Clayton is the catalyst in Broken Monsters, but he’s just one of several main characters. Beukes shows us Versado and her team tracking, then closing in, on Clayton. She shows us Layla, Versado’s daughter, as she struggles with the injustices of being a teenager in the age of social media and the Internet. Beukes shows us TK, an advocate for the homeless, as his friends enter Clayton’s sphere. And then she gives us Jonno Haim, a freelance writer who is also trying to stand out from all the other ruin porn journalists that have descended on Detroit since the recession. In turns, we see how these disparate characters are drawn into Clayton’s strange dream.
Broken Monsters begins much like another mystery novel. Clayton’s murders are strange, but no stranger than some of the other elaborate modos* operandi serial killers have come up with in fiction. But then Beukes adds her special touch and the end of the novel becomes much more than a chase for a serial killer. I can’t say too much about the last third of the book because everyone should be able to read it with fresh expectations. I will say that the ending is spectacular and that Broken Monsters is an unforgettable ride.
I received a free copy of this ebook from Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 16 September 2014.
* This is the plural of modus operandi. I looked it up. Because I’m pedantic** like that.
** Speaking of pedantic, I have to report that Beukes does make a few missteps with American English. I always find Americans using Anglicisms jarring. Americans say “different from,” not “different to.” The word hospital is almost always preceded by an article. And Americans don’t use proper as an adjective.