Saturday, June 17, 2017
Barry Lyga's Jasper Dent Trilogy
I Hunt Killers, Game, and Blood of My Blood make up Barry Lyga's trilogy centered around Jasper Dent, the son a serial killer. Let me start of with a warning and that is there are mild spoilers ahead so stop now if spoilers are something that bother you.
Jasper Dent is the son of the country's most notorious serial killer, William "Billy" Dent. At the beginning of I Hunt Killers, the first in Barry Lyga's trilogy, Jasper is seventeen and Billy has been in prison for the past four or five years. Billy got away with murder for literally years, with 123 confirmed kills until he got sloppy and killed two local girls. Jasper believes Billy's number is 124, certain that his mother was one of Billy's victims.
You would think Jasper would be an outcast given his lineage and the fact that Billy's last two victims were locals in the small town in which Jasper lives. Surprisingly, he leads a fairly normal life. Howie, Jasper's childhood best friend, remained his best friend even after Billy's crimes were revealed. Jasper is dating a girl named Connie. He's even in the school play. Jasper's biggest problem is figuring out who he is and what to do about it. Does nature or nurture turn in a person into a sociopath? Doesn't matter because Jasper got a lot of both. Jasper is the biological son of a serial killer who trained him in the ways of killing. Jasper was thirteen when his father was arrested. Growing up he knew about his father's extracurricular activities and knew they were wrong, but did nothing to stop him, not even calling the police. Billy wants his son to follow in his footsteps. So far Jasper hasn't killed anyone and doesn't want to but he is aware of how to do it. He constantly reminds himself that people matter, contrary to what Billy taught and told him repeatedly.
Jasper feels the need to prove that he is not like his father, though no one else seems to be asking for such proof. When a dead body is found in a field, Jasper is sure it is the work of a serial killer. He attempts to nose his way into the police investigation, arguing that with his upbringing he has insight into how serial killers think. The police initially scoff at Jasper's offer to help. Aside from the fact that he is a minor, they are skeptical that there could be a second serial killer in such a small town. Of course Jasper turns out to be right. In fact, he is more right than he imagined for not only is the body the handiwork of a serial killer, but the new series of murders ties back to Jasper's father Billy. I Hunt Killers ends on both a positive and negative note. On the upside, Jasper and the police have caught the killer. On the downside, Billy has escaped from prison.
Game begins a few months after the events of I Hunt Killers. A New York police detective show up on Jasper's doorstep asking for his help with a serial killer case in New York. Game was the longest book in the trilogy and frankly, the most exasperating. Jasper, Howie, and Connie are teenagers who make stupid teenage decisions repeatedly. They all believe, Jasper and Connie in particular, that they are smarter than the police and FBI. While the teens do figure out many clues, the police and FBI agents were not stupid people. I couldn't help but think of the show Criminal Minds and kept hoping a profiling team would show up and show the kids how it's done. But that doesn't happen. By the end of Game Connie has purposely and stupidly walked into a trap and finds herself at the mercy of her boyfriend's murderous father. Jasper has been shot and left for dead. And Howie, oh Howie - Howie decides to confront a suspected serial killer with a shotgun he knows doesn't work. Incidentally Howie is a hemophiliac so physical confrontations, even mild ones, never end well for him.
In Blood of My Blood everything comes to a head. I couldn't help but think if only the teens went to the police there would have been less carnage but of course the teens don't go to the cops right away. They think they can handle everything on their own. Jasper believes that he is the only one who can stop his father and takes off after him, assaulting innocent people along the way. Connie and Howie always follow of Jasper's lead. Howie at least has doubts.
I can't remember why I picked up the trilogy - serial killers aren't usually my thing. I have read one of Barry Lyga's other books, so maybe that's why I decided to pick up this series. One thing I appreciated is that although Jasper aims to do good by stopping his father, all the criminal crap he does along the way is acknowledged. Overall I, don't know if "enjoy" is the right word, "like" will have to suffice, so I'll say I liked the series. The series did give me nightmares and for that reason this set of books will not be staying in my home.