Even before Broken Monsters was published in the US, it garnered rhapsodic praise both here and abroad. “Captivating…A thoroughly modern, supernatural thriller,” raved the Los Angeles Times. Entertainment Weekly went on to say, “Remarkable is Lauren Beukes’s ability to blend genres, seamlessly incorporating horror, fantasy and traditional crime in ways that highlight the best parts of each. It feels new—unprecedented, in a way.” Now you have a chance to add your voice to the chorus! Broken Monsters is in bookstores today, and you can read the arresting opening scene below.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 9: BAMBI
The body. The-body-the-body-the-body, she thinks. Words lose their meaning when you repeat them. So do bodies, even in all their variations. Dead is dead. It’s only the hows and whys that vary. Tick them off: Exposure. Gunshot. Stabbing. Bludgeoning with a blunt instrument, sharp instrument, no instrument at all when bare knuckles will do. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am. It’s Murder Bingo! But even violence has its creative limits.
Gabriella wishes someone had told that to the sick fuck who did this. Because this one is Yoo-neeq. Which happens to be the name of a sex worker she let off with a warning last weekend. It’s most of what the DPD does these days. Hands out empty warnings in The. Most. Violent. City. In. America. Duh-duh-duh. She can just hear her daughter’s voice—the dramatic horror-movie chords Layla would use to punctuate the words. All the appellations Detroit carries. Dragging its hefty symbolism behind it like tin cans behind a car marked “Just Married.” Does anyone even do that anymore, she wonders, tin cans and shaving cream? Did anyone ever? Or was it something they made up, like diamonds are forever, and Santa Claus in Coca-Cola red, and mothers and daughters bonding over fat-free frozen yogurts? She’s found that the best conversations she has with Layla are the ones in her head.
“Detective?” the uniform says. Because she’s just standing there staring down at the kid in the deep shadow of the tunnel, her hands jammed in the pockets of her jacket. She left her damn gloves in the car and her fingers are numb from the chill wind sneaking in off the river. Winter baring its teeth even though it’s only November. “Are you—”
“Yeah, okay,” she cuts him off, reading the name on his badge. “I’m thinking about the adhesive, Officer Jones.” Because mere superglue wouldn’t do it. Holding the pieces together while the body was moved. This isn’t where the kid died. There’s not enough blood on the scene. And there’s no sign of his missing half.
Black. No surprise in this city. Ten years old, she’d guess. Maybe older if you factored in malnourishment and development issues. Say somewhere between ten and sixteen. Naked. As much of him as there is to be naked. It’s entirely possible the rest of him is wearing pants, with his wallet in the back pocket and a cell phone that won’t have any minutes, but which will make calling his momma a hell of a lot easier.
Wherever the rest of him is.
He’s lying on his side, his legs pulled up, eyes closed, face serene. The recovery position. Only he’s never going to recover and those aren’t his legs. Skinny as a beanpole. Beautiful skin, even if it’s gone yellow from blood loss. Preadolescent, she decides. No sign of acne. No scratches or bruises either, or any indications that he put up a fight or had anything bad happen to him at all. Above the waist.
Below the waist is a different story. Oh boy. That’s a whole other section of the bookstore. There’s a dark gash, right above where his hips should be, where he has been somehow . . . attached to the lower half of a deer, hooves and all. The white flick of the tail sticks up like a jaunty little flag. The brown fur is bristled with dried blood. The flesh appears melted together at the seam.
Officer Jones is hanging back. The smell is terrible. She’s guessing the intestines are severed, on both sets of bodies, leaking shit and blood into the conjoined cavities. Plus there’s the gamy reek of the deer’s scent glands. She pities the ME having to open up this mess. Better than the paperwork, though. Or dealing with the goddamn media. Or, worse, the mayor’s office.
“Here,” she offers, fishing a small red tub of lipgloss out of her pocket. Something she bought at the drugstore on a whim to appease Layla. A candy-flavored cosmetic—that’s sure to bridge the gap between them. “It’s not menthol, but it’s something.”
“Thanks,” he says, grateful, which marks him out as an FNG. Fucking New Guy. He dips his finger in and smears the greasy balm under his nose; cherry-flavored snot. With sparkles in it, Gabi notices for the first time, but does not point out. Small pleasures.
“Don’t get any on the scene,” she warns him.
“No. No, I won’t.”
“And don’t even think about taking any pictures on your phone to show your buddies.” She looks around at the tunnel with the graffiti that grows on bare walls in this city like plaque, the weight of the predawn darkness, the lack of traffic. “We’re going to contain this.”
They do not remotely contain it.