What About Ugly J?

Big-time spoilers for Blood of My Blood and the entire I Hunt Killers series in this post, so whatever you do, do not read any further if you haven’t read all three books! Seriously!

And now here’s some spoiler space…

OK, that should do it.

So, a few days ago, I received an email from a reader, asking about Ugly J. Specifically:

Did you always know that Jazz’s mom would turn out to be another killer, and specifically the kind of killer she turned out to be? What ways do you think she relates to other characters (specifically female characters) in the series?

Good questions!

First of all, yes: I always knew Jazz’s mom would be another killer. There are clues in the first book, after all — the note acrostic that spells “UGLY J” and the appearance of the stranger at Jazz’s play at the very end, for example. I knew from the get-go that Ugly J was Janice and that the figure in the back of the auditorium was Mom.

And, yes, I knew what kind of killer she would be, as well as all of the specifics of her relationship — for lack of a better word — with Jazz. I had to know these things right away. Female serial killers are rare, so I knew I wanted to play with that. And I wanted to set up a series where Billy is the Boogeyman, only to have readers learn that there’s something so much worse just around the corner.

One thing that has amused me about Blood of My Blood and the revelation about Jazz’s mother is a few folks who’ve said that they predicted it. Which is fine, but what they mean is that they figured out in advance that Jazz’s mom was a killer. OK, great, good for them. But they didn’t figure out the nature of her madness, the fact that she was worse than Billy, that she was just as evil as Gramma intimated in the first book, that she had a twisted, Oedipal relationship with her child. That she’d originally gotten pregnant in order to kill her own son. Those are the real “twists” in the book and in the series. The identity of Ugly J/the Crow King is only the beginning.

As to her relationship to the other characters… One of my regrets is that the nature of the plot didn’t allow for more interaction between Janice and the other characters. Her scenes with Connie, I think, are extremely chilling, in retrospect. She’s playing with Connie. She could have killed Connie any time she wanted, but she didn’t because it was more fun to screw with her instead. And Janice knew she could hunt down Connie and kill her any time she wanted. After all, who do you think Mr. Auto-tune was in Game? It wasn’t Billy, after all — he admitted as much. No, that was Ugly J, playing a little side-game of her own, screwing around with her son’s girlfriend.

And I think that summarizes Ugly J’s relationship to the other characters pretty well. If we’re prospects to Billy, we’re toys to Janice. And when a toy is broken — like Gramma — she just throws it away and doesn’t look back. She very specifically doesn’t like Connie, obviously, because Connie has taken her “toy” — Jazz — away from her. To Janice, Connie is barely worth the effort to kill, but Jazz’s affection for her forces Ugly J to consider killing Connie, and this outrages her.

In the end, I think Ugly J stands on her own as a force of evil, but if we’re looking at her purely from Jazz’s perspective, I think she represents the worst betrayal of all, the maternal bond gone perverse and destructive. Someone told me that if I’d revealed that Billy had molested Jazz, it wouldn’t have made them half as upset. Somehow, we expect better from mothers, and seeing Janice go as far down the rabbit hole of Bad as you can makes it so much worse.

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