Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
Narrated by Christine Lakin, Terra Deva, Sunil Mohatra, Robert Morgan Fisher, and J. D. Jackson
Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies. But this one is unique even by Detroit’s standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused together. As stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams?
If you’re Detective Versado’s geeky teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you’re desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you’re Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you’ll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe–and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world.
Lauren Beukes’s Broken Monsters is a genre-redefining thriller about broken cities, broken dreams, and broken people trying to put themselves back together again.
I honestly can’t remember how Lauren Beukes, and Broken Monsters in particular, ended up on my reading list. On the surface, it’s just not my thing. Stephen King called it, “Scary as hell,” which should have been enough to scare me away.
I’m not one to dwell in the minds of serial killers and homicide detectives, to grit my teeth waiting for the two to come inexorably together, to hold my breath as innocents stray too close. But some confluence of praise and ubiquity in my feeds made me seek it out. And I’m glad I did.
These days my reading list is omnivorous. I’ll read paper if I have to, but if I can borrow a digital copy it’s just as likely I’ll listen to a book as read it.
Broken Monsters is the first audiobook I’ve listened to that switches narrators between characters. It’s not a full cast drama, but it is a rewarding experience. The alternation took some getting used to, but the individuals took their jobs seriously. Tone and voice informed the points of view as much as the words themselves, especially when the narratives intersected.
This novel is part police procedural, part portrait of a serial killer, part coming of age tale, part family drama, and part fantasy. The discovery of a mysteriously mutilated corpse leads to a tense investigation, an artistic resurgence, and the story of the century. The subplots encapsulated within each point of view collide in an artfully postmodern way. Literally showing the duct work and the bleeding edges between them while merging into a contiguous, horrifying whole.
Beukes’s characters are deep, motivated, implicated. Even the minor and tertiary people populating the background, sketched by a couple sentences description or a few interactions, live and breathe. And this makes it possible to care for them, and their city. To worry and fret about the impact of this hybridized panic on their city and their world.
What hooked me, however, was probably opening the story on a faun. Or a sort of faun. Recalling Pan or even Mr Tumnus, I knew I was in for something otherworldly. And I’m all in for that sort of genre bell ringing. The story incorporates the gritty reality of abandoned factories, superficial social media, and miasmic magical realism and remains true to them all.
Receommended for fans of The Dark Tower, The X-Files, and Reddit.