When a desperate New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz's door asking for help with a new case, Jazz can't say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple--and its police force running scared with no leads. So Jazz and his girlfriend Connie hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer's murderous game.
Meanwhile, Jazz's dad Billy is watching...and waiting. -- Hachette Audio
A little over a year ago, I reviewed a YA novel called I HUNT KILLERS by Barry Lyga. I loved this thriller which was part Dexter/part CSI/part Criminal Minds, and I was very excited by the prospect that I HUNT KILLERS was the first book in a new series. The second novel GAME was recently released and I thought it might be fun to listen to the story this time around.
GAME picks up right where I HUNT KILLERS left off, and if I'm being entirely honest, I think you should read the books in order. Is it absolutely, positively necessary to appreciate GAME? Not really, but I do think the references to Jazz's family and his past might get confusing. And (this is the real reason)... GAME contains lots of spoilers about the previous book.
I HUNT KILLERS introduces you to the character of Jazz Dent, teenage son of the world's most infamous serial killer. In the first book, Jazz sets out to prove his innocence from some pretty horrible crimes in his hometown. In GAME, Jazz is asked to help the New York City Police Department track down the Hat-Dog Killer. He and his girlfriend Connie fly to New York and find themselves right smack dab in the middle of the murderer's "game."
I enjoyed GAME but I definitely didn't love it like I did I HUNT KILLERS. One of the reasons might be that the uniqueness of the story and the characters wasn't as refreshing as it was when I picked up the first book. I also had some issues with suspending reality in this story that I don't recall having with I HUNT KILLERS. However, I think the main reason I didn't appreciate this novel quite as much was because I listened to it rather than reading it. Because I had already "read" the first book, I had some preconceived notions about how the characters should sound; and the narrator didn't really match those.
That's not to say that I didn't enjoy GAME because I did. Once again, I was extremely impressed with the originality of the story. The mystery was extremely clever -- especially since it it technically a YA book; and while I was able to piece together a few of the clues, I honestly had no idea where the story was going to go. The crimes in GAME were particularly gruesome (did I mention that this book is not for under 14 readers?), and I appreciate that the author didn't "write down" for teens.
Furthermore, I really liked how well Mr. Lyga develops his teen characters. Jazz is just fascinating and I love how his confusion about his own ties to this father (and therefore his homicidal tendencies) are a constant struggle for him. I also like how he attempts to use his killer instincts for the greater good of society -- not quite like Dexter though! Because Jazz's father basically trained him to be a serial killer, Jazz has an uncanny ability to get in the mind of murderers; and I liked how he was able to make conclusions about the crimes because of his second sense.
In GAME, the reader also gets to know Jazz's girlfriend Connie a little better, and she proves that she definitely has some smarts and guts. Jazz's friend Howie is also back keeping things together on the home front, and he definitely provides some lighter moments. And I don't think this is giving away too much, but Jazz's father, Billy Dent, also makes a return and he is as creepy as ever!
There is no doubt that I'm hooked on this series and will read pretty much anything Mr. Lyga writes. He really is a terrific storyteller and keeps me on the edge of my seat (or treadmill in this case!) However, in the case of GAME, I actually have no choice but to anxiously await the next installment. There are cliffhanger endings and then there are cliffhanger endings, and in GAME, there is the mother of all cliffhangers! I had a feeling that this novel would eventually address a recurring theme in both of the books, but the way the author introduced the subject... on the last page of the novel, nonetheless, was almost cruel and unusual punishment for his readers!
I mentioned earlier that I listened to GAME rather than physically reading it, and I'm not sure it was the best approach for me. The narrator was Charlie Thurston and I'm pretty sure he was new-to-me. I thought he did a fine job with most of the novel, namely Jazz's character, but a few of the voices and accents didn't sit quite right to me. Mr. Thurston has read loads of books so I'm sure it was just me -- I did have some ideas about how I thought the characters should sound. I'm guessing if I had listened to I HUNT KILLERS rather than reading it, I probably would have enjoyed this one more.
I definitely recommend GAME to fans of thrillers but I do suggest reading I HUNT KILLERS first!
Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.