I started Lauren Beukes’s Broken Monsters in October because the premise is so perfectly creepy… but it took me awhile to get into, so I didn’t finish it until the early days of November.
One thing I’m struggling with is how to rate this book. It was well-crafted and the writing was excellent and it certainly sent shivers down my spine… but the ending left me feeling a little thrown.
Mini Plot Summary: This book is somewhat difficult to summarize because a) it follows so many characters and b) I don’t want to ruin any of the things that were surprising and weird about the story. The primary plot involves a gruesome murder in the heart of Detroit. Detective Gabi Versado must investigate a case in which an eleven-year-old boy has been killed and his head and torso have been attached to the hindquarters of a fawn. Other characters – who reveal themselves and their roles in the murder investigation over time – include Versado’s fifteen-year-old daughter, a social media “journalist” trying to recast his career, a homeless ex-con, and an artist who is desperate to get his family back. Their storylines eventually intersect in an epic showdown.
What I Liked About This Book: My favorite thing about this book, by far, was the writing. It was smart and vivid and full of sharp, fresh imagery. I found myself going back over many of her descriptions and metaphors because they were so unusual and yet so apt. Beukes deftly sketched each character so that they became real. She described things that are indescribable in clean, vivid strokes. And, after a very slow burn, she amped up the tension until I found myself staying up until 2:30 one morning to finish the novel.
I really liked the two female leads: Detective Versado and her daughter Layla. They felt the most complete to me, and their individual stories were the ones that made me stick around to learn more. I also enjoyed the ins and outs of their strained but loving relationship. Man, if Beukes portrayal of teenage life is anywhere near accurate, I am NOT eager to see it play out in my own kid. Versado’s daughter got into a lot of really upsetting scrapes.
What I Didn’t Like About This Book: I don’t know that I can say I disliked anything in particular, and the writing wowed me so much that it compensated for a lot of other issues. For instance, I found the book to be pretty slow for a long time, as we get to know the characters and learn about their own separate stories. The individual threads didn’t weave together until the book was half over, which almost made me lose interest in the primary plot. I wonder if the book would have been more successful for me if we only saw the story unfold through the eyes of Detective Versado and Layla. I didn’t particularly care about the other three characters. But of course that’s a very subjective reading and The other thing that I didn’t love was the ending. As I noted above, Beukes really builds to a crescendo and keeps pushing and pushing until you’re breathless and shaking and trying to read faster than your sleep-blurry eyes will allow. But ultimately, I found the ending unsatisfying and maybe even a little perplexing. Two characters were given attributes there at the very end that seemed to come out of the blue. And the final confrontation was… wild. It sort of reminded me, in terms of complete and utter WTFness, of Mexican Gothic and even The Other Black Girl. It wasn’t unearned, I guess, but it still left me feeling a little disappointed by where it landed.
Should You Read This Book? If you like really tight, well-crafted writing and dark, gruesome stories with surprising character evolution, I think you’ll enjoy this book. I am definitely planning to read more of Beukes’s writing, that’s for sure!