The New York Times 26 October 2014 has a corking review of Broken Monsters (featuring art by one of my favourite illustrators, Francesco Francavilla). “An enormously satisfying novel that employs the best attributes of multiple genres to dramatize big ideas about art, the Internet and urban decay.”
Here’s the review in full:
The serial killer in Lauren Beukes’s BROKEN MONSTERS (Mulholland/Little, Brown, $26) is an artist. His first killing fuses the torso of a young impoverished boy with the lower half of a deer, “hooves and all.” These aren’t just mutilations, he believes. His victims are subjects, his killings art. Meanwhile, he perceives vast supernatural forces spilling through a series of chalk-outline doorways someone (or something) has drawn inside abandoned buildings across Detroit’s blighted landscape. Is he insane or legitimately possessed?
Beukes doesn’t answer this question fully until the well-executed final chapters of her thriller, but the journey there is exquisitely paced and impeccably controlled. The novel’s sturdy emotional center comes from the rich, nuanced relationship between Detective Gabriella Versado, the cop in charge of finding the killer, and her teenage daughter, Layla. Beukes’s depictions of teenagers in general are a welcome reprieve. The current trend among novelists and screenwriters alike is to depict adolescents as bottomless reservoirs of meanness and their parents hapless idiots scratching fruitlessly at their stone hearts. Here the domestic emotional struggles of the crusading cop and her precocious daughter are as engrossing as the hunt for the killer. Beukes also commits to the other members of her ensemble cast with brisk, suspenseful chapters that crackle with authentic shifts in narrative voice.
For the most part, “Broken Monsters” recalls the best novels of Richard Price, in which compelling, finely etched characters collide while orbiting a series of crimes that have shaken their community to its roots. In this case, the community is modern-day Detroit, where gangs of artists are literally turning urban decay into artwork. Beukes moves effortlessly through many of the city’s worlds, from police precincts to the Internet-driven secret lives of teenage girls and the homeless shelters and mostly dead neighborhoods of a hobbled American city, all while teasing a disturbingly beautiful and possibly supernatural universe existing at its borders. The end result is an enormously satisfying novel that employs the best attributes of multiple genres to dramatize big ideas about art, the Internet and urban decay.