This Broken Monsters review has been compiled from two separate reviews I wrote in 2019. The first part is the spoiler free review, followed by the spoiler full review and summary. Enjoy
Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes, Spoiler Free Review
Broken Monsters starts off as your ordinary serial killer thriller. A body is found in a sensational scene, a boy’s body is attached to a deer’s body and staged, and a single mom detective is hard on the case. I picked this one up because I still needed a horror novel for October but I needed something much easier than my last few reads. This fit that bill pretty well.
Overall, the story was interesting enough but it was the characters that kept me going. I still think there were one too many. I could’ve dealt without any of the homeless man TK’s chapters and even when his part fell into place at the end, getting to know him at all just seemed like unnecessary padding to the book’s length. But the other characters are developed, interesting, and best of all, real.
Gabi is your single mother detective who works her absolute butt off trying to do both. But not in the lean-in gotta have it all way, just the we’re all trying our best with what we’re given sort of way. She is a good cop and she’s a good mom but she can’t always be both at the same time.
Her daughter, Layla, behaves like a normal teenager. Just a real normal teenager and not the “normal teenager” you see on TV. She gets in some pretty deep trouble. But I never found her unbelievable. If I had had her friends and today’s technology when I was her age it’s very possible I too would have been in the same deep trouble. She’s relatable and endearing.
Jonno is a struggling reporter/writer/blogger who is relatable but not in a good way. He’s the worst of us. Searching for fame and attention even when it’s a danger to him. He can’t be bothered with things like the law when, gosh darnit he has a story to break! He is constantly obstructing justice and putting himself and others in harm’s way. We see this all the time today, it’s a real factor for criminal cases anymore.
Clayton Broom is our killer. We know that pretty early on in the book which means this story is not a who-done-it but a why-done-it. His story started off interesting to me but got very confusing by the end. He’s an artist, sort of. His new medium is human bodies, and other things…
There is a whole cast of side characters who also fit nicely into place. The Author Beukes does a good job of fleshing out relationships and making the people have a purpose there. Things mentioned in the beginning of the book come full circle by the end and it’s very satisfying to read a book that seemed to have a plan before they sat down to write it.
My main problem with the book is the ending. Without giving anything away, it gets weird. Really weird. At the beginning of the book I thought I knew how it would all play out. By the middle I thought, oh maybe this is something a little deeper than that predictable thriller course. But at the end, I was just confused and struggled to find meaning in what had occurred. The ending was not for me. It certainly wasn’t predictable but I don’t think that’s a good thing in this case.
I enjoyed reading the book overall even though it got weird at the end and had a couple of pacing issues. Mainly that we get one murder at the very beginning and then nothing until nearly the halfway mark over 200 pages later. But it accomplished my need for a nice engrossing quick read to finish off Spooktober with. Happy Halloween!
Spoiler Full Review and Summary
Broken Monsters starts with lead detective Gabi 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 they worry that the sick mind that created this abomination 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 eventually 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 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 of her 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. Broken Monsters is a modern thriller this way, using the internet as a tool for good as much as bad.
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 these 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 because she was right. Okay, so here’s where the book lost me completely. What? The theme of Broken Monsters 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)