(Jasper Dent #1)
By Barry Lyga
Genre: YA, mystery, thriller, crime, horror
Jasper “Jazz” Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.
But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal’s point of view.
And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod.
In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret—could he be more like his father than anyone knows?
My fifth book for the Thriller Month challenge and another winner. 😀 I thoroughly enjoyed it once I got past the first chapters, then it was smooth reading until the end. I must get the sequels!
Jasper Dent, or Jazz as everyone calls him, does not exactly join the police force as stated in the summary, he forces himself into the investigation despite the sheriff’s orders to leave the investigations to professionals. The orders should have been stated in a more commanding manner, but then we wouldn’t have this book to gush over.
The results of Jazz’s involvement are both amusing and chilling since he knows so much from his messed up childhood. His father, a real piece of work, has instructed him in the fine art of murder, so Jazz knows almost too much about police procedures and the mindset necessary to commit these atrocities. It is Jazz’s struggle with the past, with the sociopath’s mindset he had been groomed into, that is the highlight of the book. The psychology is amazing and so real. I feel like I know this character on such an intimate level and he could still surprise me. It is amazing.
“ In a moment, he channeled every last drop of (his father).
“Who am I? I’ll tell you. I’m the local psychopath, and if you don’t save my best friend’s life, I will hunt down everyone you’ve ever cared about in your life and make you watch while I do things to them that will have you begging me to kill them. That’s who I am.”
The book is surprisingly funny at times, which is not something you expect when reading a thriller, even if it is a YA book. It seems wrong somehow, but here it is quite natural and a part of the characters. The gruesome, dark parts are balanced with the everyday, humorous parts – this gives the book a very dynamic feel and makes for a fascinating read. The world goes on even when bad things happen and that is a message of this book as well.
Howie, a childhood friend of Jazz, has the art of sarcasm and deflective humour all figured out. I bet his haemophilia has forced him to see the bright side to everything, to adjust to his limitations and not let them define him as a person. He’s super funny, even if it sometimes a little inappropriate. But that is why he clicks so well with Jazz – these boys have a close connection. Howie might need to be careful about physical stuff, but he’s emotionally very well adjusted. Jazz is strong physically, but his psyche is fractured and in serious need of healing. They complete each other.
“…called nine-one-one,” Howie was saying, “and then I heard something in the alleyway, so I went back there and” –Howie coughed– “and valiantly attacked his knife with my guts, to no avail.”
“Did you get a good look at him? Could you describe him?”
Howie smiled wanly. “Yeah. He was about yay long” –he held up his hands, four inches apart– “thin, made of steel. Pointy. Sharp.”
The duo moonlight as detectives, Jazz taking the lead. Howie is not entirely enthusiastic about the idea but he helps Jazz because this is what his friend needs to get to grips with his demons. He’s the sceptic, the one with the questions, but he’s not without brilliant ideas. He’s also not afraid of the darker moods Jazz might fall into. He’s a very likeable and competent character. In fact, the entire book is filled with characters that fascinate you, even the villains. Jazz’s senile grandma can be a tragic-comic figure at times, but when she turns her nasty side on you, you can totally understand Jazz’s desire to get rid of the hag. She’s such a toxic person you wonder what holds Jazz in that house, but he has learned to look at everything with a grain of salt, knowing she is not herself.
“Jazz spent a chunk of the day fantasizing about ways to kill his grandmother, plotting them and planning them in the most excruciating, gruesome detail his imagination would allow. It turned out his imagination allowed quite a bit. He spent the rest of the day convincing himself–over and over–not to do it.”
Cassie, Jazz’s coloured girlfriend and a refreshing change in white-washed YA books, is also a part of the small group of friends Jazz has in the town. She’s a very determined, opinionated, and strong woman who knows how to pull Jazz out of his funk and keep him on the straight and narrow. She’s not afraid of ordering him around, but deep down you can feel the love she has for him. She’s the one person who doesn’t doubt that he is a good guy even though he hasn’t figured out what makes him tick yet. Is it the same killer instinct of his dad, or is it something else. Is he normal? These questions haunt Jazz and hunting the serial killer is his way of puzzling it out.