I Hunt Killers -- Barry Lyga
When a body (naked, female) is found in Lobo's Nod, the police don't get all that worked up about it. They open an investigation, of course, but they don't immediately think: serial killer. And you can't blame them for that. After all, Lobo's Nod is a small town, and the currently-incarcerated Billy Dent, one of the most notorious—and busy—serial killers of the century, already claims it as his hometown. What are the chances that another one would swing through?
Seventeen-year-old Jazz knows better. He knows that this body is only the beginning. He knows, because he knows how serial killers think.
He knows, because Billy Dent is his father.
He knows, because in the years before Billy Dent was finally arrested, Jazz saw—and did—things that would give most other people a lifetime's worth of nightmares. Not to mention therapy bills.
But because he can think like a killer, he's all the more equipped to catch one. And now, with the help of Howie, his type-A hemophiliac best friend, that's what he plans to do.
Just as long as he's able to suppress his own dark urges...
Oh, Barry Lyga. I loved this book.
Obviously, if you don't like 'em dark, this is not going to be the book for you. If you find the premise of Dexter—a vigilante serial killer—totally horrifying, then this is probably not going to be the book for you. Like your stories comfortably black and white? Bothered by heroes who aren't really sure if heroism is the route to take, who aren't sure that they belong on the right side of the law? Squeamish? Ditto. Ditto. Ditto.
Like I said, I loved it.
While I Hunt Killers is definitely going to get described as Dexter Morgan's Teenaged Years—Jazz even tends towards some of the stylized literary flourishes that Dexter does (most notably always referring to his father as Dead Old Dad)—it's actually quite different. The main difference is that while Dexter had a paternal influence who trained him to use his urges For The Greater Good, Jazz is pretty much on his own. His mother's been missing for years—he assumes that his father killed her—and his father makes it clear that he'd like Jazz to follow in his footsteps.
So, while he has the same urges that Dexter has, he doesn't have anyone to teach him to deal with them in a more 'constructive' manner. He doesn't know if the thoughts he has are normal, or if they mean he's fated to be the next Billy Dent. Even though he's got a best friend, a girlfriend, and the ear of the local sheriff, when it comes to the stuff that goes through his head on a daily basis, he's really only got himself to rely on.
Which, details aside, makes him very easy to identify with.
Beyond Jazz, who's such a fabulous narrator that I'd recommend the book for his voice and characterization alone, everything else here is straight-up, flat-out super. The mystery and investigation, the friendships, the secondary characters, the depiction of media and its view of Jazz as a commodity, the pacing, the atmosphere, everything. There's a wonderful balance between dark humor and actual gravity, between real life and epic drama.
If Barry Lyga were to sit down, specifically intending to write a book that I would love, I don't think it would be possible to hit the nail more squarely on the head. I'm very much looking forward to whatever comes next for Jazz.
Two thumbs way, way up.
Book source: ILLed through my library.