If Lauren Beukes had kept to Elmore Leonard’s dictum about cutting out all the parts of a manuscript a reader’s liable to skip over, Broken Monsters would be thin as a quarter. Unfair? Maybe even stupid, considering how much praise this book has garnered. I guess I just didn’t get it.
“Genre-bending” is an oft-applied adjective to Beukes’ works, and Monsters certainly is that. Genres that come to mind are “random Facebook scribblings,” “Character sketches,” “Scattered notes for a detective novel.”
What is a novel? Forster described it as a “prose work of some length,” so by that loose definition, I guess Monsters fits. However, it’s a wandering soul of a book that never finds a home. Focus, lady, focus.
Beukes gives us four major characters, each with his/her own chapters–the female detective, her daughter (and her daughter’s friend, which would make five major characters) the schizo killer, and the would-be writer-turned-journalist-turned-social-media-celebrity. Maybe not so many except a great many of the chapters have nothing to do with the central action. It’s not that they start out seemingly irrelevant and eventually tie together. They stay irrelevant.
There is a tumultuous final scene involving pretty much everyone in which all the characters seem to join in the illusions of the schizophrenic murderer, seeing his monsters and having to destroy them before they can defeat him. I suppose that’s the point somehow, but I found it akin to a tedious acid trip. Then for a denouement, we get pages and pages of the journalist/blogger exchanging comments with his readers, some laudatory, others excoriating him for intruding in the crime scene and filming the action, creating rather than revealing evidence and interfering in the investigation to the point of aiding the criminal. Again, tedious.
To the thousands who read and liked this, I would welcome some enlightenment. What did I miss?