Review: Game

Game by Barry Lyga. Sequel to I Hunt Killers. Little, Brown & Co. 2013. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

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!!

Other reviews:  YA Love; Makeshift Bookmark.


7 thoughts on “Review: Game

  1. Oh no, oh no! I too read the endings sometimes for the exact same reason. Now, I’m very nervous. Actually, I’ve had the first book on my list for a while but haven’t read it yet ’cause serial killers and their sheer evilness freak me out. But, the more I read about this series the more it intrigues me. Also, since the book focuses on Jazz and not the serial killer (I think) that puts it in the plus column. However, I’m sure that they delve into the serial killer’s and Jazz’s dad’s psyche which puts it in the freaking out column. It’s a quandary. Should I stop being such a baby and just read it already?


  2. Eliza, the focus is more on Jazz than on Billy or the killers but still, there are some pretty disturbing killers. But, as a YA book, I think its not as graphic as adult books so at least for me, this makes it an easier read. Not that it isn’t treated seriously — it is.


  3. Liz – you convinced me. I’ll try it. Also on the convincing scale is the first episode of what looks to be another fabulous PBS series, The Bletchley Circle, which just started this Sunday (April 21st). It’s about four women who were part of The Bletchley Project during WWII as code breakers. The series starts several years later. One of the women, Susan, starts applying her pattern recognition skills to a series of murders of young women and gets three of her friends from the Bletchley Project to help. What’s great is that each woman brings a different skill to solving the puzzle. You can check out the first episode online at I like that they’re concentrating more on the problem solving than the killings – at least so far. No spoilers allowed for those in the UK who’ve already seen it 🙂


  4. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe The Bletchley Circle is already over. It is only 3 episodes. That’s way to short. I want more stories about these women. I have to scour the internet to see if a second series has been ordered. Looking forward to hearing what you thought of it.

    Check out this article about what the 1st episode got right in its recreation of Bletchley Park. It’s an interesting read.


  5. Not looking! I waited until they showed all 3, and now need to wait to the weekend when I have 3 hours in a row to watch.


  6. Okay, I bit the bullet and read I Hunt Killers and while it did venture into the mind of the killer it didn’t dwell there. It was pretty good but I thought Jazz’s worries about being just like his dad became repetitive. Yes, I can get this would be a big concern but he says the same thing over and over and over, sometimes in the exact same words and only a page or two apart. I think a lot of the angst could have been edited out and the we’d still feel his worry and concern without wanting to feeling like we’re being hit over the head to get the point. I loved it when Connie finally lost her patience with the repetition also. Go girl.

    Okay, before I read The Game I need reassurance that Howie is okay at the end. I don’t think I can stand it something happens to Howie.


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