I Hunt Killers – Barry Lyga

Crime Fiction Alphabet – B is for Barry Lyga

Seventeen year old, Jaspar “Jazz” Dent comes from what you would call a dysfunctional family, his mother has been missing for years, he lives with his senile Grandmother because his father is in prison. Not a great start in life you could say.

However, it is all a bit more dysfunctional than that – Jazz’s father is the most notorious serial killer in America and Jazz is worried that his upbringing on how to kill, cut, slice and dispose of bodies and how to outwit the police is going to turn him into his father. And when everyone knows who you are you begin to doubt all your actions.

When a body is found in the town where Jazz lives, followed by another a pattern is emerging,  and Jazz can see an uncanny connection to the pattern of his fathers killings. But the Sheriff refuses to link anything together so Jazz accompanied by his friend Howie and girlfriend Connie do some of his own investigating.

However, the killer seems to be one step ahead all the time and when the Sheriff recognises the connection with Jazz’s past, events start to take a turn for the worst. Everything Jazz holds dear to him is threatened; his friendship with Howie; his relationship with Connie and his own belief that he is going to turn into his father, because he is thinking exactly like him. Jazz fears himself.

A gripping thriller which I am led to believe is pitched at the more Younger Adult audience but I think apart from the language used, and the very little bad language used there is little to suggest this.

There was enough blood and gore description to get right under the skin of the reader, and plenty of psychological twists when you actually start to believe that with a flick of a switch Jazz could turn his hand to continuing his father’s legacy if it was not for someone getting their first.

I like Jazz, he was a fighter and you could see that through the way he dealt with everything that he came up against, even the police who were at first thinking he was still to wrapped up in what his father had done. Jazz knew which battles to pick and could manipulate the situation to his advantage, a skill his father taught him, but one that Jazz used differently.

It was interesting to see the novel from the point of the perpetrator’s family – so many thrillers can centre on them and not those they leave behind after they have committed their heinous crime. The senility of the grandmother, made you question whether such insane criminal behaviour stemmed from a family trait. Mention must therefore go to the Nature versus Nurture debate, that many reviews touch on. The fact that Jazz was a minor made it all the more interesting as he had no means of escape unless he concurred with the social worker assigned to him to help remain ‘well-adjusted’. Under the circumstances I think Jazz was far more ‘adjusted’ than many of those that knew him give him credit for.

A good page turner, and an excellent book if you have a teenager that perhaps wants to branch out into more thriller type fiction.  With likeable and believable characters that you want to know what happens to them, so you keep turning the page.

One character I did laugh out loud over was Howie. You never expect to laugh with a crime thriller novel do you. Howie is Jazz’s only friend. Jazz came to his rescue when he was being bullied, and despite Jazz’s notorious father Howie sees past all of that and still remains his friend. The irony of all this blood and guts in the novel is that Howie is a Haemophiliac. 

Thank you to Transworld Publishers for sending me this for review.

I read this as part of The Crime Fiction Alphabet Challenge hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise