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


Third Girl – Agatha Christie

Crime Fiction Alphabet – A is for Ariadne Oliver

Mum’s book which I read

A flat share of three girls, in the 1960s does not seem a likely place for the renown Hercule Poirot to become involved in the minds of criminals but he does. The third girl of this flat share, Norma Restarick interrupts Poirot one morning whilst he is breaking his fast with “a steaming cup of chocolate…to accompany the chocolate was a brioche. It went agreeably with chocolate”. She thinks she may have committed a murder and came to him for help after hearing Ariadne Oliver the author, sings Poirot’s praises. But Norma thinks he is too old for any kind of assistance and leaves as quickly as she arrived satisfying nothing of Poirot’s interest which is now piqued, he seeks solace in that of Mrs Oliver.

And so begins the trail of Norma Restarick and the whereabouts of this unknown murder if it really did happen. Mrs Oliver with her own style of veering from one theory to another, not getting any names right along the way most of the time, does not like the thoughtfulness of Poirot’s method and goes it alone with amusing coincidences. But the little grey cells work in mysterious ways and with Agatha Christie’s style we see he conclusions reached and I had worked out quite a lot of the end result.

However, for some reason I admit to struggling with this novel and I am not sure why. Its setting is the 1960s which I found very disconcerting, somehow Poirot and the swinging sixties do not go together. Although it did provide some amusing observations of girls. I wonder if this was really Christie’s own personal thoughts voiced through the detective? Ariadne Oliver’s is not as prominent in this novel as in others but when she is, she does provide a lot of humour.

I had preconceived ideas about this novel after having seen the television adaptation which is vastly different from the book, which is probably why the book and I did not get on. That said, it is a clever tale and I am rather pleased that I worked it out. However, if I wanted to recommend a Christie book with Ariadne Oliver in, I would not choose this one.

Ariadne Oliver appears in 6 novels with Hercule Poirot starting with Cards on the Table (link to my review) , Mrs McGinty’s Dead, Dead Man’s Folly, The Pale Horse (without Poirot), Third Girl (review above), Hallowe’en Party, Elephants Can Remember. She was introduced to Christie readers in Parker Pyne Investigates 

A middle-aged woman and successful detective novelist, she is described as “handsome in a rather untidy fashion, with fine eyes, substantial shoulders, and a large quantity of rebellious grey hair with which she was continuously experimenting”. ; She is a feisty character and believes that Scotland Yard would be better run by a woman!

I always think of Ariadne Oliver as being played by Zoe Wanamaker in the ITV Poirot series with David Suchet as the man himself. She seems to fit the character so accurately “Poirot sighed. With Mrs. Oliver one always needed a lot of patience.” I sometimes think her love of crime but her complete hate of her own fictional creation in Oliver’s own books that of Finnish detective Sven Hjerson was a tongue in cheek way of showing readers that perhaps Christie was not that much of a fan of the Belgian Detective she had created. 

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


Cards on the Table – Agatha Christie

My Mum's copy - complete with damage on spine and very yellow pages inside.
They were second-hand when my mum got them 35 years ago

There are four suspected murderers in one room playing Bridge.

There are four investigators in one room playing Bridge.

There is one host, Mr Shaitana not playing Bridge.


He has been murdered.

And so starts The Cards on the Table, any one of the four of the suspected murderers could have done it. But there are no clues.

So Hercule Poriot must use all his little grey cells to come to the correct conclusion without being prejudiced by the fact they have all committed a crime before. Eventually he will lay his cards on the table and give his conclusion.

Agatha Christie cleverly weaves the tale and takes us through each individual suspect, as he questions them about their Bridge playing and what they observed in the room, whilst Superintendent Battle uses more police procedural methods.   The other two investigators, Colonel Race uses his connections to get background on one of the suspects. Whilst Ariadne Oliver, the famous author, jumps from conclusion to conclusion but her fame is the way one of the suspects acquaintances reveals something that has been kept hidden.

And so with all the evidence. Truths are revealed, accusations are bandied about and the perpetrator of the crime is caught all within 200 pages. What more could a fan of crime want?

A rattling good read, which has a foreword from the author in the book;

There is an idea prevalent that a detective story is rather like a big race – a number of starters – likely horses and jockeys. “You pays your money and you takes your choice!” The favourite is by common consent the opposite of a favourite on the race-course. In other words he is likely to be a complete outsider! Spot the least likely person to have committed the crime and in nine times out of ten your task is finished. 

Since I do not want my faithful readers to fling away this book in disgust, I prefer to warn them beforehand that this is not that kind of book. There are only four starters and any one of them, given the right circumstances, might have committed the crime. that knocks out forcibly the element of surprise. 

Already the scene is set for this book before you have even been introduced the characters or locations, Christie builds up the psychological suspense in the way she does best.

The only criticism of the book and that is nothing to do with the writing, characters or plot, is actually my complete ignorance of the card game bridge. It sounds so wonderfully clever, and perhaps if I understood such terminology as dummy, bids, defenders, etc I may have got even more from the book. Although I know I have always been better at the card game Patience (Solitaire to US readers). 

I came to this book, after seeing the television adaptation many times already. The book is nothing like the programme as is the case in so much of adaptation. Deviation from the storyline and plot. I will not give anything away in case any reader has not read the book. However, despite the deviations I do find the adaptation one of the more watchable. If only for the wonderful Ariadne Oliver who is played by Zoe Wanamaker. More about Ariadne I feel when the Crime Fiction Alphabet Challenge starts.

Zoe Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver

Crime Fiction Alphabet

As you know I have not signed up to any challenges in 2012. In fact I created my own, which can be found at the top of this blog but sometimes you can be tempted.

And so I have been by the Crime Fiction Alphabet hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. I enjoyed reading Jane’s posts about it in 2011 and spent a lot of time wondering what I would do for each letter, Jane is going for a second year! I have decided to go for my first and will try for every letter.

The rules are very simple – By Friday of each week participants try to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week. The post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book’s title, the first letter of an author’s first name, or the first letter of the author’s surname, or even maybe a crime fiction “topic”. But above all, it has to be crime fiction. Plenty of choice for me, especially as I have had rather a lot of crime fiction dropping through my letterbox. Tempting fate really, because probably now none will drop in! So I can write a review, do something about an author or basically something that fits the ‘crime’ category.

It all starts with the letter A on Monday 21 May.

This will give me a chance to tackle some more Agatha Christie. Some Cosy Crime perhaps? Or even Quirky? Local to me could be good as I know there are a few I need to be catching up on? Oooh the possibilities are endless.

Off to make a list or two as I have a few ideas running through my head, just need to sort them out into the appropriate letters.

Please feel free to make suggestions – you might just tempt me to rethink my alphabet choices!