Publishers Weekly (Starred Review, February 17, 2012 edition)
Lyga continues to shift genres, delivering a superb mystery/thriller that explores what it’s like to have a monster for a father. Seventeen-year-old Jazz’s father, Billy Dent, was a prolific and brilliant serial killer who did his best to educate his son in the ways of murder. With Billy in prison for life, Jazz longs to overcome the stigma of his family history, but when a new serial killer strikes his small town, he is drawn into the investigation. Along with his hemophiliac best friend, Howie, and his girlfriend, Connie, Jazz applies the gruesome knowledge his father passed along in an attempt to discover the killer and overcome his fear that he might become a murderer himself. Lyga (Boy Toy) delivers a taut, gory tale that can easily stand on its own as an adult thriller, with a large group of suspects and plenty of red herrings. But it’s Jazz’s internal conflict about his exposure to his father’s evil that adds extra dimension and makes the book shine. Additional books are planned, and TV rights have sold to Warner Bros. Ages 15–up.
VOYA (April 2012)
5Q5P In order to catch a killer, one must think like a killer, and nobody knows how to do that better than Jazz Dent. His father is one of the most notorious serial killers in the world and taught Jazz everything he knew about the art of killing. Now his dad is in jail, and all Jazz wants to do is suppress the urges his dad passed on to him and be a normal teenager, but when a new serial killer shows up in Lobo’s Nod, Jazz is obsessed with catching him. In order to face the killer, Jazz must first confront his own demons and decide which side he is really on.
Lyga brilliantly combines the feel of a true crime story with mystery, adventure, and psychoanalysis in this intense story of a different kind of family bond. It is a classic “whodunit” with the added intrigue of describing murders in great detail, while not becoming overly gruesome, as well as the police work involved in solving a crime, so it feels like a true crime novel instead of fiction. The characters are especially believable, and the reader will be drawn in by their motivations and actions. Jazz’s inner struggle to understand his compulsions to both save and hurt people will captivate readers into wanting to know which path he will ultimately choose. This story will appeal to a wide variety of older teen readers, especially guys, and will make an excellent addition to any library serving mature teens.
Booklist (January 2012 edition)
The Artist, Green Jack, Gentle Killer, Hand-in-Glove, Satan’s Eye — all nicknames for Billy Dent, the killer who murdered 123 people before being incarcerated. For 17-year-old Jazz, the memories of his father’s butcherous routine may be four years old, but they’re all too fresh: his small-town community continues to treat him with suspicion at every turn. Then the murders begin again [redacted for spoilerage] and the town sheriff has no choice but to bring in Jazz to help find the new killer. Lyga has fashioned the kind of gripping, gory psycho-thriller usually relegated to adult fiction, one that fears neither viscera nor deviant sexual behavior nor the darkest of human impulses. It is rare when a YA novel dares to dwell upon the moral ambivalence of its protagonist, but Jazz is just that — a hero who constantly yearns to succumb to his killer instincts. Before the teasing finale, Lyga gifts readers with a Hannibal Lecterlike prison showdown between Jazz and Billy. Safe bet that the sequel will offer more of these satisfying tête-à-têtes.
Horn Book (May/June 2012 edition)
Seventeen-year-old Jasper “Jazz” Dent’s life changed irrevocably four years ago when his father was convicted of over one hundred and twenty murders. “For Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round”; Billy taught Jazz tricks of the serial killer trade throughout his childhood. But when another killer strikes, Jazz hopes desperately that preventing more murders will prove to his small town (and himself) that he’s not destined to follow in his father’s bloody footsteps. He runs his own investigation alongside the official one and pieces together a pattern: [spoiler redacted; c’mon, people!]. Though the characters are underdeveloped, Lyga explores compelling questions of nature, nurture, and free will in Jazz, who has more heart and conscience than he thinks. A wisecracking best friend, a compassionate girlfriend, and a father figure provided by the local sheriff anchor him and occasionally offer advice on “being human” to counterbalance Billy’s macabre life lessons in violence and manipulation. The biggest strength of this taut thriller is the engrossing mystery of the Impressionist’s identity—and what Jazz will do when he finds him.
School Library Journal (April 2012 edition)
Jasper’s father, now in prison, is the world’s most notorious serial killer, and he raised his son to follow in his footsteps. Now Jazz (who never turned his father in) can’t be sure that he isn’t a sociopath, too. He tries to find redemption by convincing the local sheriff that a recent murder is the work of a new serial killer [spoiler redacted]. Jazz proves himself right and is able to use his knowledge of his father’s way of thinking to track down the murderer. The teen has disturbing thoughts about women, thinking that they are “simultaneously special and useless” and has to consistently remind himself that “People matter. People are real.” He can be a difficult protagonist to relate to, but many teens, particularly boys, will be drawn to this title for the suspense, the violence, the brutality, and the gore. Fans of Dexter or Dan Wells’sI Am Not a Serial Killer (Tor, 2010) will likely find themselves hooked on this new series.
Kirkus (February 15, 2012 edition)
When your father is the most notorious serial killer of the 21st century, having a normal life is a struggle. So is not following in his footsteps. After witnessing many of the crime scenes of his father’s 123 official kills in ways the police wish they could, 17-year-old Jasper “Jazz” Dent is glad his father’s in prison. Life with crazy Gramma, who raised “Dear Old Dad,” is hard enough, and now it’s in jeopardy thanks to Jazz’s social worker. When police discover a body in a field near town, Jazz becomes certain it’s a new serial killer. In spite of the objections of Lobo’s Nod Sheriff G. William Tanner, Jazz and his best friend, hemophiliac Howie, run their own investigation and uncover a pattern as bodies quickly pile up. Can Jazz help the cops find this new monster without becoming a suspect himself? YA rebel-author Lyga switches from goths and superheroes to serial killers and sociopaths with this grisly teen thriller. Jazz’s heightened self-consciousness is both believable and entirely in tune with regular teens. Readers of Dan Wells’ John Wayne Cleaver novels (I Am Not a Serial Killer, 2010, etc.) will find echoes of them here, though the writing is not as tight and the creep factor is lower. Also, the certain-sequel open ending is a bit of a letdown. Still there is much to satisfy the blood-and-gore lust of older teen CSI and serial-killer fans.
“Lyga is no stranger to the dark side of teen life and doesn’t sugarcoat, but he also doesn’t wallow. Jazz’s struggle to find his own humanity and to see it in those around him is painful to watch, but it’s impossible not to root for him.” — Shelf Awareness (Read the entire review.)
“The mystery and the suspense were so overwhelming that I almost stapled the last chapter shut to prevent myself from cheating and skipping ahead to the end, to find out both “who done it” and who survived to the last page…. I Hunt Killers is a Favorite Book Read in 2012.” — School Library Journal’s A CHAIR, A FIREPLACE & A TEA COZY Blog (Read the entire review.)
“I read all but 60 pages of it one evening, and then decided I had to stop to avoid dreaming of death. An hour passed. I realized I couldn’t wait till daylight to finish.” — International Bestselling Author Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely series) (Read the entire review.)
“I was sucked in from the very first line….and I would like to give kudos to Lyga for including an interracial couple in his novel.” — Angie on Beneath the Jacket (Read the entire review.)
“Barry Lyga is like a cross between Irvine Walsh, Chuck Palaniuk, and Douglas Coupland, looking at the things most people look away from. But Lyga has a way of humanizing them, shedding light in the dark places and helping to expose us to the reality of the world around us without being over the top.” — Steven R. McEvoy (Read the entire review.)