Friday, August 17, 2012

My father's a serial killer, how about yours?!

What would it be like to be raised by a serial killer?  Not a question I ask myself very often but one that must have come up to Barry Lyga, the author of "I Hunt Killers" (I guess after he explored all his questions about superheroes and goth girls, Lyga moved on!).  Jasper "Jazz" Dent lives in the small town of Lobo's Nod, trying to have a normal life after his father was convicted of one hundred and twenty three murders about four years ago.  He is dealing pretty well with school, his girlfriend Connie, his wise-cracking hemophiliac friend Howie, and his crazy-but-harmless grandmother--until dead bodies minus a few fingers start showing up.
Unfortunately, Jazz's father Billy has an alibi--he's in prison for life--so Jazz hopes desperately that preventing more murders will prove to the townspeople (and himself) that he's not destined to follow in his father's bloody footsteps.  He scopes out the crime scene, breaks into the morgue, and eventually realizes that  the killer is doing a Billy Dent "impression" by re-creating his murders.  While the plot is compelling, the real heart of this story is his struggle to be real.  His father has taught him how to "play people" so well that he doesn't know when he is charming for real or manipulating for gain.  He is so unsure of his humanity that he keeps pictures of all his father's victims on his bedroom wall, along with the phrases "People are real.  People matter".  Lyga deftly balances the questions of nature vs. nurture, of fate vs. self determination, as Jazz tries to fight against his father's lessons in violence and manipulation.  Oh yeah, and there are definitely indications of a sequel, so I guess Lyga hasn't finished with this question yet!  

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