Book Review: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Note: This review is part of the 2016 Summer Reading Diversity Spotlight.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Mystery, Crime, Thriller
ISBN: 978-0316125840
Source: Bought
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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?


I Hunt Killers is one of those books that I’ve owned for awhile and just did not get around to until now, even having the entire trilogy at hand. Well, after finishing, let’s just say that I’m really glad that I do have the entire trilogy at hand. I can dive right into the next one and the next!

It was fun following Jasper “Jazz” Dent on a mission to prove to an entire town that’s against him because of his serial killer father, that he’s not following in his father’s footsteps after a number of girls are found dead throughout his town, He’s got a lot to prove to others and to himself, as he tries to answer the age old questions of “Do I want to be like my parents when I grow up?”and “If I don’t want to be like them, how will I be different/better?”

We either want to be like our parents or we don’t and in this case, it’s essential that Jazz doesn’t end up like his father. But with tendencies like his father and so much cruelty engrained in him by his famous killer father, detaching himself from those memories and from a certain train of thought is not as easy as one might think.

It’s an internal struggle that I was really excited to see because I can’t tell you the last time I read a book where a character was basically at war with the worst part of themselves.

In the novel, we get a good feel for Jazz’s parents, his mother, who mysteriously “went away” and his sick, psychopath father, Billy. Billy’s life as a serial killer is truly fascinating. After reading, I kind of want to read all about his murders, from his POV.

There’s also Jazz’s grandmother who was quite a case herself. She’s got her own set of issues but one scene in particular that I want to point out is Jazz putting Benadryl in her soup so she would be knocked out when Connie, Jazz’s black girlfriend and Howie, Jazz’s best friend came over the house, since she is a racist.

Howie is the moon on the darkest of nights. He’s the light of this novel for sure and was really a delight to see. Not only is he Jazz’s only friend, he’s been his friend since before his family drama came to the surface and remained his friend afterwards. Now that’s a true friend. Howie also is a hemophiliac and I don’t have the authority to say that this was an authentic portrayal, that said, I did feel like I learned something here from Howie and really appreciated this being part of his identity.

Then there’s Connie, Jazz’s girlfriend. She’s tough, she’s smart, she’s easy to love. And, she’s black, making this an interracial relationship. Can we give a round of applause for a minority character in a book that 1) isn’t a sidekick 2) isn’t a trope? I loved this. Especially the details of Connie, for instance, her cornrows and Connie telling Jazz not to touch a black girl’s hair. These little details may not mean much to anyone who’s not black but it is everything and very much appreciated. Anyway, Connie being in Jazz’s life period is a good sign because it shows that not only is Jazz capable of love (unlike his father), but his love is capable of being unconditional. I definitely wanted more of Connie and Jazz.

I also really liked the dynamic between Jazz and the sheriff, G. William because that dynamic is quite unique given Jazz’s father’s reputation and Jazz’s strong interest in the current murders around town. Friends or foes? You’ll have to read to find out.

Story wise, I don’t want to say too much. It was exciting watching everything unfold and I think if you’re hooked in the beginning, you can probably read this in one sitting. It’s fast paced and thrilling, dark and twisted. Oh it goes there. Twisted doesn’t even begin to cover it. If this were on TV, it would need to be on cable…otherwise it’d be just as gory and messed up as Fox’s The Following and have me wondering how network TV could get away with getting it to air. Ha ha.

Anyway, note that there is animal cruelty, which, you know, goes with the territory given the psychopath serial killer subject line here. So, all that said, I Hunt Killers is creepy, gruesome, very disturbing, funny, great for fans of murder mysteries and horror, and I can’t wait to get to the sequel.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga is available today.