Game

Spoiler warning! If you haven’t read Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers yet, you simply must before reading the sequel, Game. (My fellow South Carolinians need to read I Hunt Killers anyway. It’s nominated for the 14-15 SC Young Adult Book Award.)

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I recently finished reading Game, the second book in Barry Lyga’s Jasper Dent series. In this series, we get to know Jasper, known to his friends as Jazz, the son of the world’s most prolific serial killer. In I Hunt Killers, Jazz helps the authorities find the Impressionist, a killer copying the work of Jazz’s father. At the end of that book, though, readers got the kind of cliffhanger that makes us weep or scream in frustration. Somehow, Jazz’s father escapes from prison, and he’s on the hunt again. That’s where Game picks up.

Jazz knows his dad is on the loose, and it’s just a matter of time before their paths cross. In the meantime, there’s yet another serial killer prowling in New York City, and Jazz’s help is once again enlisted to determine just how this maniac thinks. And if anyone knows how a killer thinks, it’s the son of Billy Dent.

Jazz and his girlfriend Connie head to NYC in the hopes that they will be able to find some clues that lead to the capture of the Hat-Dog Killer. The police and FBI seem to have no leads, and Jazz is able to provide a bit of insight into the mind of this psychopath. It’s not always a comfortable process for Jazz (or the reader). In trying to figure out what the killer thinks, Jazz is forced to come face-to-face with his own damaged psyche.

Can Jazz really handle the pressure of thinking like a killer once again? Is he losing himself to the teachings of his father? How can Jazz possibly spend most of his time profiling serial killers without succumbing to the voice of Billy Dent in his head?

As Jazz comes closer to the truth about the Hat-Dog Killer and his dad’s possible involvement in this disturbing game of murder, Connie and Jazz’s best friend Howie are entangled in their own mystery. Someone is sending Connie messages leading her to some disturbing information about Jazz and his past. Who is sending these messages? And why send them to Connie and not Jazz? Connie enlists Howie’s help in her search for the truth, but neither of them will be prepared for what awaits them…

Once again, the hunt for a killer is on. Jazz and company will have to rely on their wits, tenacity, and good old-fashioned luck to figure out what’s going on…but it may not be enough. Even when questions are answered, dozens more pop up in their place, and the hunt for the truth may lead Jazz, Connie, and even Howie into further danger.

Someone is playing a murderous game with people’s lives, and Jazz and his friends may just become unwitting game pieces themselves. Can they make it out of the game alive? Only time will tell…

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I freely admit that the above recap doesn’t come remotely close to capturing everything that happened in Game. I didn’t even touch on the glimpses we got into the minds of Hat-Dog, Jazz, Connie, Howie, and Billy. Each perspective brought us new insights into these characters and how they view the world around them.

I briefly mentioned Jazz’s struggles with his own mind, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Jazz is all kinds of messed up, and that definitely comes through for the reader. I even had to put the book down a couple of times and just catch my breath. Jazz’s head is not a happy place to be. What do you expect when a kid is basically raised to be a murderer, right? Sometimes it’s not clear if we’re actually reading Jazz’s thoughts or those of his lunatic father. I guess that’s the dilemma for Jazz as well.

Without giving too much away, I must say that the “game” aspect of Game freaked me the crap out. I may never look at board games the same again.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the whopper of a cliffhanger at the end of this book. When I closed Game last night, I just sat there for a minute and thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Has Barry Lyga been taking lessons from Steven Moffat (of Sherlock and Doctor Who fame) on torturing fans with mind-boggling endings? Do we seriously have to wait until September to find out how things are resolved (or if they are resolved) for Jazz and friends? I guess we do, but we don’t have to be happy about it!

The third book in this series, Blood of My Blood, should be released on September 9th. (Loving the title, by the way. Can’t wait to see what it might mean for Jazz!) Judging be the synopsis on Goodreads, we’re in for a lot more danger and intrigue. I look forward to diving into what I’m sure will be another fantastic read.

If you can’t wait for more of Jasper Dent and company, though, you can check out a couple of companion novellas. Lucky Day tells of how Billy was first captured, Career Day is a day in the life of sixteen-year-old Jasper, and Neutral Mask provides a look into the beginnings of the relationship between Jazz and Connie. Just click on the titles of each novella in the previous sentence, and you’ll be taken to the Goodreads page on each ebook.

For more information on I Hunt Killers, Game, or other books by Barry Lyga, check out his website, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. If you’ve got a minute or two to spare, you may also want to take a look at the Game book trailer below. It covers things I didn’t here, and, in my opinion, it definitely captures the mood of this intense read!

 

I Hunt Killers

One of my favorite TV shows is Criminal Minds.  I think it’s fascinating to get a glimpse into the mind of a killer.  (Yes, that makes me a bit morbid, but society as a whole, in my opinion, has a morbid fascination with killers, especially serial killers.  Just look at the hoopla that still surrounds Jack the Ripper.)  Anyway, I finished a book a couple of days ago that offers an even more interesting perspective than we often see in our favorite crime dramas.  I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga shows readers what life might be like for the son of one of the world’s most renowned (fictional) serial killers.

 

I Hunt Killers explores what life is like for our main character, Jasper “Jazz” Dent, who grew up with a vicious sociopath who cared nothing for human life.  Now that Jasper’s dad, who goes by so many monikers, is in prison, Jasper must face his own demons…and this becomes harder than ever when a new serial killer comes to town, one that is mimicking The Artist (otherwise known as Jazz’s dad).

Jazz is convinced that the recent murders in the town of Lobo’s Nod are the work of a serial killer, but no one seems to believe him.  But will that stop him from trying to prove his point?  Not even a little bit.  Jazz is putting the pieces of the puzzle together, and he’s sure that this new killer is copying his father’s work.  But how can he convince the police of this, especially when he knows he’ll end up being their prime suspect.  After all, Jazz was raised by pure evil.  How could he help but be infected by it?

As Jazz struggles to stop a killer, he is also examining his own mind and the disturbing images and urges that seem to be such a big part of him.  Jazz’s father, the great and terrible Billy Dent, never kept secrets from his son.  Jazz knows everything about Billy’s kills.  He was there for many of them.  Billy instructed Jazz on how to track victims (or prospects), how to clean up a crime scene, and how to kill.  That knowledge doesn’t just go away, and now Jazz is faced with the possibility that he’s more like his father than he’d ever want to admit.

As the body count rises, it’s up to Jazz (and a couple of loyal friends) to stop this new killer in his tracks, save the next victim(s) on his list, and prove to everyone–including Jazz himself–that it’s possible to rise above his horrible upbringing and do something that really matters.  Something that will save lives instead of destroying them.

I Hunt Killers is not a book for the faint of heart.  This book takes an all-too-realistic look at the life and mind of a sociopath…and the horror such a person could inflict on not only his victims but even his own family.  What would something like that do to an impressionable child?  You’ll get a glimpse of that in this book. 

While I related I Hunt Killers a bit to Criminal Minds, a friend of mine thought it was more like Dexter.  In a sense, it is.  (And if you’ve never seen Dexter, you really should…if you don’t mind copious amounts of blood, that is.)  While Jazz is trying to figure out who is committing these horrible crimes, he’s also dealing with his own violent urges–and how he could use those urges and his own past to stop this killer before he goes any further.  So, I guess this book is kind of the perfect combination of Criminal Minds and Dexter…and I can hardly wait to see where this winning combo takes us in the future.

I Hunt Killers is the first book in Barry Lyga’s Jasper Dent series.  The next book, Game, is set for an April 2013 release, and this book will further explore Jazz’s psyche and his efforts to stop history from repeating itself.

For more information on I Hunt Killers and other books by author Barry Lyga, visit http://barrylyga.com or follow the author on Twitter @barrylyga.  You may also want to check out this absolutely creeptastic book trailer from Little, Brown.  It made me want to go back and read the book all over again.