Detroit, a city built on the American Dream, now harbouring killers and dreams that shouldn’t see the light of day. A gruesome murder with no motives. Detective Gabi Versado leads the case, all hands on deck, filling in the gaps. At home, her teenage daughter surfs the web fishing for perverts. In this digital age, nothing stays hidden for ever and there’s one broken man who needs to be found before it’s too late.
Don’t make the mistake of judging Broken Monsters on the first few chapters. It starts off like any other serial killer thriller and you may start to wonder if Lauren Beukes has turned her pen to vanilla crime fiction. There a single parent detective, a down on his luck journalist and a group of people on the edges of society. However it’s one of those books that just gets better and better as the story unfolds. Keep turning the pages to reveal a serial killer yarn intertwined with social commentary on the internet age against a backdrop of urban decay.
What hope does he have? The world is condensing, attention spans narrowing to tiny screens, and there are people who are wittier and smarter, who know how to write for those nanospaces.
Where The Shining Girls was firmly rooted in the past, Broken Monsters is very much in the now. Lauren writes modern life so well with so many observations that make you think or nod in agreement. Both the journalist and the artists struggle with the quest for originality; everything has been done before and everyone can have an audience via digital media. How do you stand out? How do you make a living? There’s comments on everything from self-publishing and cyber bullying to dwindling attention spans and competition for audience.
Shakespeare would have it wrong these days. It’s not the world that’s the stage – it’s social media, where you’re trying to put on a show. The rest of your life is rehearsals, prepping in the wings to be fabulous online.
The book can probably be read in two ways. It’s an engaging thriller that gets seriously creepy in places. I got a bit freaked out reading it late at night with the windows open. On the other hand, there’s a metaphor within the pages; a message about how we live our digital lives. Something that if you spend any significant amount of time on social media, you will no doubt recognise.
Broken Monsters is published by HarperCollins and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 31st July 2014. Thanks go to the publishers for providing a copy for review.
Shelve next to: Glaze by Kim Curran
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
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