The Plot: In I Hunt Killers, Jazz helped capture a serial killer. It was his father, the infamous serial killer Billy Dent, who taught Jazz the ways of killing, not thinking for a moment that Jazz would decide to help the police rather than continue in Dear Old Dad’s line of work.
Jazz is trying to deal with the fallout from I Hunt Killers when the New York Police Department shows up on his doorstep, asking the seventeen year old to use his unique skills to help them catch the Hat-Dog Killer.
Jazz caught the Impressionist because he was a serial killer imitating Billy Dent’s crimes, under the guidance of Billy Dent. The Hat-Dog Killer started killing before Billy escaped from prison; with no connection to Billy’s crimes, can Jazz help?
Turns out, Jazz can. His girlfriend Connie insists on not being left behind; his best friend Howie stays behind to help care for Jazz’s grandmother. And turns out, Dear Old Dad is also in New York….
Start reading. And then lock and double lock your doors.
The Good: Needless to say, you should read I Hunt Killers first. Done? Good.
Moving the mystery to New York City is smart: first of all, just how many serial killers can Lobo’s Nod have? Plus, Billy Dent is too smart to return to his hometown. Or, rather — Billy Dent has too much unfinished business. He has other things to do….
But this isn’t about Billy, is it? Because the Hat-Dog Killer started while Billy was still in prison. Because they’ve found DNA on the victims and it doesn’t match Billy’s. No, the Hat-Dog Killer is a new killer for Jazz to hunt, with the help of Connie and Howie.
Let me just say: the hard part of any teen mystery is why is it a teen investigating? Game‘s solution, that only Jazz has been trained from birth by a serial killer, is simple and chilling at the same time. Also, with Mom dead (body never found, but it’s assumed she’s one of Billy’s many victims), Dear Old Dad an escaped convict, Gramma suffering from dementia (and just general racist meanness), there’s no one telling Jazz “no”. Now, there are people telling his friends “no” so their need to be some creative solutions there to the “why are their parents letting them investigate serial killers” problem.
Let me also say: I think that Connie’s and Howie’s being friends with Jazz, and their involvement in the capture of the Impressionist, leaves them a bit over-confident and under-afraid of what they are getting involved in. It’s one thing when the mystery happens in your back yard; it’s another when you go to find it. I find their actions and motivations believable, but I still wanted to sit them down and say WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
Connie; another good thing about this series is the diversity in the characters. Jazz is white; his girlfriend is black. This is both just a part of who they are, but also an interesting plot point because, see, Billy Dent killed plenty of women but never one who was black. Is Jazz attracted to Connie because she is “safe” since she doesn’t look like any of Dear Old Dad’s kills? Do Connie’s parents dislike Jazz because he is white, or because he is the son of Billy Dent?
One more thing: yes, the murders are nasty stuff, but it’s nasty stuff described in a line or a paragraph. It doesn’t go on for pages and pages, like some adult serial killer fiction books do. So it’s intense, and it doesn’t pretend that the killing is anything but brutal, and it doesn’t romanticize murders, but it also doesn’t go on and on and on in step-by-step detail.
The good news is the Hat-Dog Killer mystery IS resolved by the end of the book. This is a mystery, after all, and that matters. (Yes, I am still not over the ending of the first season of The Killing). The bad news? Certain other plots were introduced and the way those plots were left, well, yes, the term “cliff hanger” would be appropriate.
One more thing: you know how sometimes I skip to the end to reassure myself that certain characters don’t die, so I can continue to read with less tension? Well, that totally backfired on me. Darn you, Barry Lyga!!