Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes, 2014
Broken Monsters initially seems to be a gritty but familiar cop-vs.-disturbed-serial-killer tale. Which would be a good read in itself. But readers are quickly thrown off-guard when the familiarity of that genre is yanked away and things take a supernatural turn.
The setting is perfect. Detroit: blasted, crumbling, stricken, yet persevering. This real wasteland is juxtaposed with the shiny, removed world of social media and the idea that maybe, art and writing can transcend this reality. But in a good way?
We follow multiple, paralleling points of view. When they almost intersect, the tension increases exquisitely.
Hard-boiled lady detective Gabi Versado is among the first on scene of shocking murder. She finds half of missing boy gruesomely fused to half a fawn.
Gabi’s nerdy teenage daughter Layla is an outsider at school (she can quote Shakespeare) whose only friend is one brittle girl with a secret.
Clayton is an isolated and frustrated older artist who is suddenly inspired to make…unique…pieces that will open very special doors.
TK, a streetwise optimist who survived childhood trauma, prison and addiction pays kindness forward to the homeless at his church’s soup kitchen.
A wanna-be journalist, Jonno will cross sacrosanct lines to achieve fame and fortune.
Atrocities escalate. Pink doors chalked onto walls appear around the city. What would happen if those doors opened? The story is so tautly-drawn that by the time the mind-blowing climax arrives, one can hardly keep from sneaking looks at the pages ahead to find out what happens, and which characters are still with us – and how. At the same time, it would be a crime to miss a word of Beukes’ writing. Her narrative voice is immediate and street savvy and very darkly beautiful.
Broken Monsters is an uncanny read. A cop story that is also about finding meaning in life, and making meaning by bringing life to dreams. A supernatural story that leaves the reader wondering about the transcendent powers of art. A great story, any way you look at it.