Author: Barry Lyga
Genre: YA Contemporary, Crime, AWESOME
Publication Date: April 16, 2013 (LBFYR – North America)
Source: NetGalley Review Copy
Summary: Billy grinned. “Oh, New York,” he whispered. “We’re gonna have so much fun.”
I Hunt Killers introduced the world to Jazz, the son of history’s most infamous serial killer, Billy Dent.
In an effort to prove murder didn’t run in the family, Jazz teamed with the police in the small town of Lobo’s Nod to solve a deadly case. And now, when a determined New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz’s door asking for help, he can’t say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple–and its police force–running scared. So Jazz and his girlfriend, Connie, hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer’s murderous game.
☆: 4/5 stars – a great follow-up to book one!
Review: It’s no secret that I loved “I Hunt Killers”, and it was one of my favorite releases of last year. I’m happy to say that “Game” doesn’t suffer from middle book syndrome, though I did have a few issues for it. But for the most part? This is an insane ride of a book that will start you from page one and carry you on a crazy tsunami until the very last page. I’m positively drooling for book three now. If you read and liked “I Hunt Killers”, I think you’ll like “Game”, too.
The biggest issues in this book: it was a little too ambitious in the sense that it tried to cram so much into only so many pages. Which, you know, ambition is a good thing, and more of the Jasper Dent saga is always a good thing, but I feel like a lot of this could have either been expanded upon, or, alternately, could have been left for book three. We’re left with a killer (no pun intended) cliffhanger, which was good (and I usually hate cliffhangers), and so I’m definitely in for book three no matter what at this point. The expanded parts would have definitely added to the page count, and it makes me wonder what was left on the cutting room floor.
As for what felt crammed into the book it was the idea of “the game”, and while there were plenty of hints as to how it worked (and once it was explained, I hit my forehead for not figuring it out earlier), it could have been brought in earlier in terms of explanation, or at least expanded a little bit with more frequent little teases instead of just Billy’s instructions, or his periodic POV interlude chapters. On that point, it reminded me more than a bit of the show “The Following”, where the killer has a cult he’s been building – but then again, I’m guessing both that show and this book were in development at roughly the same time, so I’m going to call coincidence on that. There is no mention of a cohesive cult dedicated to Billy Dent, but there is mention of his die-hard fans, who eventually become integrated into his game. So how does he find them, and have them participate in his game? I really, really hope this is explained in book three, because this was one of my largest questions I had left after finishing that last page (aside from Aunt Samantha possibly being part of the “family business” – that could have been a little more sketched out, too – hoping for more of that in book three as well).
As for the rest of the book – it was absolutely brilliant in pretty much every technical way. This book is Jasper’s book more than ever, and casts a very stark dichotomy in terms of how tempting it is to give into his father’s teachings as he helps out the FBI and NYPD, and how he needs to “stay human”. Using a serial killer as the other was a brilliant move on Lyga’s part in book one, but using it to define what makes you human in book two was extraordinary. It all just worked. This book is so much more of Jasper fighting himself, struggling to remain human, to keep his definition of self as being human, and to keep reminding himself of what he could turn into if he lets down his guard for more than a few seconds. It brought brilliant tension to things, in only the way Lyga can bring.
I’ll definitely say that the widening of the lens on the relationship he has with Connie and how it’s going (and where it’s going) definitely helped, and it also made things feel like it was not just Jasper going after Hat-Dog, but also Connie and Howie too, which helps give him a support system and brings a really great sense of togetherness (which, admittedly, gave me warm fuzzies). And there isn’t too much with them compared to Jasper’s big internal fight, but it was just enough to give you that sense of how Jasper is fighting to hold onto his human side, and how he’s able to through his relationships with Howie and Connie.
Some reviewers have brought up the idea of the FBI/NYPD bringing in Jasper as a profiler for Hat-Dog was being a little on the unbelievable side, but when you’re dealing with yet another serial killer which bears a lot of resemblance to his father? It makes perfect sense. At least, to me. You’d have a profiler that would completely understand and possibly be able to predict your current killer’s patterns and motives, and how that might possibly tie in (if at all) to his father. Is it a little out there? Yeah. But when you have a situation that refuses to go away, all seemingly able to be tied back to one person? It completely makes sense, that you’d even use the guy’s son against him in order to stop the madness.
Final verdict? While the main idea of this second book needed more explanation or expansion, it was absolutely brilliant, and I’m totally chomping at the bit for book three now. Believe me, when you see how it all comes together, you’ll be gasping and laughing and feeling a little sick all at the same time. “Game” is out now from Little, Brown FYR in North America, so DEFINITELY check it out when you get the chance. Definitely one of my favorites of 2013 so far.