First published back in April of 2012, ‘I Hunt Killers’ was the eighth novel to be published for US author Barry Lyga.

DLS Synopsis:
Jasper Francis Dent (aka ‘Jazz’) is a seventeen year old school student who had one hell of a dysfunctional upbringing.  His serial killer father, William Cornelius Dent (aka ‘Billy’), was locked up four years ago for the murder of one-hundred-and-twenty-three (with possibly one more murder to add to that figure) individuals in a lengthy career of murder, torture and rape.

As such Jazz’s upbringing was a very disturbingly unique one.  Throughout his younger years, Jazz was shown how to become a successful serial killer – one day to follow in his Dear Old Dad’s footsteps.  Daily lessons on the tricks of the trade of how to avoid detection, along with practical demonstrations on dismembering a corpse and prospecting for the next victim. 

Nevertheless, Jazz’s life as a child was one that spent in awe of his father’s work.  The power his father had.  The magnificent ritual of murder.  The intimate trophies.  The never-ending compulsion.  And nurtured from birth to accept murder as part of a normal life, Jazz had known no different.  That is, until his father was caught for his horrendous crimes.

But now, four years since his father’s incarceration, and a new body had been found, dumped in a field just outside of the very same small out-and-back town of Lobo’s Nod where Billy Dent had finally been caught.  And upon hearing of this new discovery, Jazz decides to investigate the crime scene himself, drawn to the vague possibility that there may just be another serial killer at large. 

Seeing that the killer has removed two of the victims’ fingers, Jazz in convinced that this is undoubtedly the work of a serial killer.  But the town’s Sheriff G. William Tanner isn’t listening.  The odds of having two serial killers applying their trade in their out of the way community must be several billion to one.  Although the Sheriff had been at the forefront of Billy Dent’s apprehension, he wasn’t going to jump to conclusions upon the discovery of a corpse – even with the missing digits implying a morbid trophy collecting.

But Jazz isn’t about to give up.  He knows the mind of a serial killer.  He knows how they think, why they do certain things, and how they get away with it.  After all, he’d been taught by the undisputed master – his father.  And so, together with his friend Howie Gersten, a type-A haemophiliac, Jazz starts his own investigations into the matter – most of which are far from above board.

But when a second and then a third corpse appear, all with a number of their fingers removed, G. William can’t deny the inevitable fact that there is a serial killer in the midst.  Not only that, but Jazz soon realises that there is a haunting connection between the killer and his father.  And Jazz’s worst fears become realised when his offhand predictions of the circumstances surrounding the murder of the third victim are all proved correct.

Lobo’s Nod is once again in the grip of a savage serial killer.  A killer who is following in the footsteps of the world’s most prolific and notorious murderer.  And Jazz knows that he must help to catch the killer.  Not only to save the lives of those that will fall victim to this brutal predator, but also to prove to the world that he is not like his father.  And more importantly, to prove to himself...

DLS Review:
Lyga’s ‘I Hunt Killers’ starts off with a slow, almost cautiously plodding pace, that spends the first few chapters simply setting down the characters, the small out-and-back town backdrop of Lobo’s Nod and the initial ‘murder investigation’ plot.  However, as the tale continues, and the second corpse is found, Lyga quickly starts to ramp-up the pace, getting stuck into the confused mind-set of our principal protagonist – Jazz Dent.

The most notable strength of the novel is undoubtedly the depth of characterisation that is put into this lead character of Jazz.  Lyga gets knee-deep in exploring the ever-present fears, the confused mixed messages and the creeping sociopathic desires of this complex and intriguing character.  Indeed, much of the novel is given over to this troubled young individual’s struggle with his own inner demons.

Amongst the highly emotive character exploration, Lyga begins to form a tight and well-paced storyline, with plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep it powering forwards with just the right amount of momentum behind it.  Although the novel actually lacks in any substantial amount of adrenaline-pumping action (although there are still a few scenes), Lyga still manages to carry off a thoroughly gripping read that keeps the reader engrossed throughout.

The novel sparks another round of the nurture vs nature argument surrounding criminal behaviour, with Jazz’s constant inner turmoil at having the killer gene inherently in him taking a considerable presence in the format of the tale.  Although this ground is already very well-trodden, Lyga takes the story through a new viewpoint, with the worries of such an inherent trait being seen from the angle of the principal protagonist.

There is certainly a particularly dark tone to the entire story.  There’s no escaping the fact that the tale was always going to be gritty and hard-hitting.  But there is also a great amount of enlightenment, a sense of positive pushing forwards, breaking the mould and almost a heart-warming fight for a whole new life.

The novel ends on a strange semi-cliffhanger note, leaving the tale easily open for a sequel if the author so wished.  There are certainly plenty of ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’ (1988) similarities in the latter half of the novel, especially in the run-up to the final few pages.   But Lyga has kept his influences firmly in check, instead producing a novel that stands well on its own, with a wealth of uniquely original charm behind it.

The novel runs for a total of 361 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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