I loved The Shining Girls, so I was super excited to read Broken Monsters. Sure, The Shining Girls was very disturbing, with an incredible psychotic killer and some pretty awful murder scenes. But it also had an amazing premise (an old house as time portal) and a supremely likable heroine. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about Broken Monsters (despite Lauren’s skill as a writer). I think I may have enjoyed Broken Monsters much more had I not read The Shining Girls first, so you should probably take my review and rating with a certain amount of skepticism.
The setting of modern-day Detroit was, surely, a deliberate choice (as an entire city showing the fall of the American dream), the perfect setting for the most depraved serial killer I’ve ever read. I felt, however, that while there was a literary purpose to the setting, it made the book far less appealing (as much as a book like this could be appealing). All of which I would have looked past had I cared more about the characters.
The detective, a single badass Latina, was far too predictable and reminded me too much of CSI. The blogger was (as he was supposed to be) extremely annoying and narcissistic (although he was nothing of the sort when the story began. His jump in character was somewhat jarring). The teenager was also somewhat predictable. The best character, by far, was the homeless man (perhaps because of his fierce loyalty to his friends). What’s somewhat disturbing in and of itself is that I found the killer to be the most sympathetic. He was a body inhabited by an evil dream, which took him down a dark spiral of depravity, but the man he used to be is sad, and I felt sorry for him.
The story is told over the course of a single week, which did give it a sense of urgency (as did the descriptions of the police investigation). I think if it had been written in any other way, I would have found it difficult to finish (although I would have, since the book came from NetGalley). The first half of the week went slowly, but as the investigation continued and got closer to the killer, the pace picked up (of course) until the somewhat weird conclusion. And perhaps that is my greatest complaint about Broken Monsters: that the ending seemed almost detached from the rest of the story. It was somewhat surreal (as I suppose it needed to be), and I felt dissatisfied. While I wasn’t expecting a neat, happily ever after (this wasn’t a romantic thriller, after all), I did expect to feel… I don’t know, just different than I did.