Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Welcome to Detroit, home to broken dreams and a loss of hope, but this city isn’t lifeless and in Broken Monsters we are welcomed into its dark heart. Lauren Beukes has written a novel where the following questions could be asked but may prove to be irrelevant by the time you finish the story: What kind of story am I reading? Is it a gritty crime procedural? A dark fantasy? A commentary on social media? The decline of Detroit? Relationships? Truthfully though Broken Monsters is all of the above and yet so much more.

Broken Monsters is written from multiple perspectives that for a long time leaves you guessing as to the why and how these characters are connected. The book starts with the discovery of a mutilated body and the ensuring murder investigation led by Detective Gabriella (Gabi) Versado. Each chapter is then given to another character’s perspective so we soon meet the rest of the major players; Gabi’s daughter Layla, still trying to find her place in the world, TK who lives his life by trying to help his community, Jonno a failed journalist running from himself and Clayton a struggling artist who doesn’t always connect with the reality around him. The chapters are also structured over days which give you a realistic time frame for the events in the book.

As the story progresses we are led further into these characters’ lives which I felt were fully realised. There was strength between the taut, but loving relationship between Gabi and her daughter Layla. The regret of past events also strongly affected the futures of these characters and throughout Broken Monsters there was also the need to bring a murderer to justice for crimes that should be unimaginable. Lauren Beukes also writes the secondary characters as more than just ciphers to the main characters. Instead we meet characters like Cas and Jen Q who have a full back story that reveals their motivations into their current actions.

In the questions I asked at the beginning of this review the one I found interesting was the use of social media. Social media can be used as a force for good in getting people noticed when their struggles are not always reported by mainstream media, but there is also a negative side, where any past misdemeanour can be remembered long after an event. There is also the value social media has for self promotion where a person is just looking for fame or glory rather than caring about the damage they may do around themselves. All these instances are used in Broken Monsters in a way that will hopefully get you to think about what you would or wouldn’t share online.

I loved this book for its darkness as well as the feelings of hopelessness, but within this story hope does appear now and again. This can be seen in those moments of terror where you wonder, like any good horror story, whether any of these characters for all their faults will survive the night and if you actually want them to.

If you’re a stickler for a novel to only be written in one genre, then this isn’t the book for you, for everyone else welcome to a truly intelligent story. Lauren Beukes goes from strength to strength with each book she writes.

9/10 Welcome to a truly intelligent story.

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