Author Lauren Beukes
This is the spoiler full review of Broken Monsters. If you would prefer to not have the story given away but still want to read about the book go here.
Broken Monsters starts with Gabi, the lead detective, and her crew at the crime scene of a young boy severed at the waist attached to a deer, also severed at the waist, to make a grotesque sort of centaur. This is obviously a scene unlike any they’ve seen before and worry that the sick mind that created it may do so again soon.
While the detectives attempt to manage this case and keep details from the media that may cause a panic we are introduced to Jonno, the media panic inducer. He’s a struggling writer who meets and immediately falls in love with a DJ and the two of them set out to make him famous on the internet. He stumbles into this case and then does. not. let. go. He causes no end of trouble for Gabi and eventually even bribes her daughter to tamper with evidence for him. He’s far too focused on making it and gets completely blinded to the dangerous situation he’s put himself and the only person he cares about into.
Speaking of Gabi’s daughter, Layla, has her own plot thread throughout the book as well. She’s my favorite part of the book. Her and her friend Cas are typical teenagers and spend their time getting into a fair amount of trouble on the internet. They are baiting pedophiles with a fake profile and if that doesn’t take it far enough for you they decide to meet one in person. I really enjoyed how the author developed the girls’ friendship through this extreme plot. She did a great job making them feel real and young enough to not understand consequences.
All of these arcs, as well as separate chapters for an unremarkable character named TK and our killer Clayton, are happening back and forth through short chapters. We get little pieces from each character and they are largely unrelated for the first half of the novel. That is until they all get to the same art exhibit. Jonno is there “reporting.” Layla and Cas have snuck out to meet Layla’s crush. It’s one big party until Layla finds the other halves of the murdered boy and the deer, Cas gets sexually harassed by some party goers, and Jonno sticks his fat nose into all of it.
Layla sends her mother a photo of the body she’s found and Gabi immediately gets the entire department over there to shut the exhibit down. Layla is traumatized and Cas has fled. Jonno is still filming everything and is asked to cooperate with the investigation by handing over his film evidence, he instead gives them a different phone and hinders the whole justice process so that he can get the scoop instead.
Gabi is too busy dealing the with whole serial killer thing to comfort her daughter as much as she should so Layla is left alone to discover that her friend Cas was being harassed because there is an old video of her online being molested while passed out drunk. This plus the trauma of Layla having found a body causes her to go a little crazy so she goes and beats the teeth out of the boy who was harassing her friend. This of course is also video taped and put on the internet so Jonno finds it and uses it as leverage when blackmailing her.
Layla thinks she needs to make things right and to do that she needs money so she attempts to blackmail the aforementioned pedophile, unsuccessfully, which causes her to be desperate enough to go for Jonno’s offer of stealing crime scene photos from her mom. It’s all very convoluted when shoved into a few paragraphs but it plays out pretty well over a couple hundred pages. The characters are well developed and all of this seems natural for them.
Now we get to the climax where everyone in the story finally meets. Jonno, like an unstoppable idiot, drags his girlfriend to a murder factory where Clayton is displaying his most recent work, a murdered rookie cop with angel wings and a door in his face. This is where things start to get real weird. Clayton has somehow drugged the building? Or something, at the end they say everyone’s blood tests were negative for hallucinogenic toxins but now is when everyone starts to hallucinate or maybe Clayton has demon magic, still unsure. Anyway, Jonno witnesses his girlfriend’s bird tattoos peck and claw their way through her torso and she’s left dead with an open chest cavity.
Layla, Gabi, TK, and Clayton are all there now and hallucinating in some sort of frenzy. Gabi, like a real and responsible police officer, sees Clayton, announces herself as police, and without hesitation shoots him to bring him down to the ground. Because of the chaos and hallucinations Gabi believes she sees the dead officer rise and come toward her trying to open the door in his face. She momentarily loses control of her weapon but regains it and shoots Clayton in the head as he comes to attack her.
If that’s not weird enough for you Jonno is still filming all of this and Layla is trying to stop him because she somehow knows that filming it is what’s causing the hallucinations. Once she smashes Jonno’s phone everything settles down cause she was right. Okay, so here’s where the book lost me completely. What? The theme of the book seemed to be building to a commentary about the media and how it interacts with the criminal justice system but this metaphor didn’t land for me. It’s so paranormal and odd and I have no frame of reference for filming causing anyone to witness elaborate scenes that aren’t actually happening. The ending did not work for me at all. I was just left scratching my head. I’m glad the murderer was stopped but I have no idea what the rest of it means. Comment below with your theories please!
I was really enjoying the book until this ending completely derailed it for me. The characters, besides the unnecessary TK, were all very well developed and their place in the story was well plotted out. The pacing was a little off for a serial killer thriller in that we didn’t get a second kill until half way through the book right when I was starting to get bored. Overall, I would recommend this book for when you need a nice quick read and a solid distraction.
3/5 deer 🦌🦌🦌
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Buy it here: Broken Monsters (Reading Group Guide)