Broken Monsters | Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Detective Gabi Versado has hunted down many monsters during her eight years in Homicide. She’s seen stupidity, corruption and just plain badness. But she’s never seen anything like this.

Clayton Broom is a failed artist, and a broken man. Life destroyed his plans, so he’s found new dreams – of flesh and bone made disturbingly, beautifully real.

Detroit is the decaying corpse of the American Dream. Motor-city. Murder-city. And home to a killer opening doors into the dark heart of humanity.

A killer who wants to make you whole again…

I’ve been a huge fan of Lauren Beukes ever since I stumbled across Zoo City, a gloriously… different tale which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction Literature in 2011. It was followed up by The Shining Girls, which involved a time-travelling serial killer and a girl who didn’t die. Very different from Zoo City, but still utterly splendid and highly recommended.

So it was with much excitement that I was sent an advance copy of her latest book, Broken Monsters by the lovely folk at HarperCollins (@KillerReads). Again, all other books on the Great Unread Book Pile were promptly shifted to one side to put this one front & centre.

Short version – brilliant, go read it.

Longer version:
Lauren has brought us another serial killer novel, but one very different in tone from The Shining Girls. Our murderer here is building monsters from the darker part of dreams – part boy, part faun. Indelible images of a warped mind. And that’s just for starters. The story jumps between the viewpoints of multiple, beautifully realised characters – Detective Versado on her hunt for the killer, her daughter Layla and best friend Cas, trying to track down a paedophile online, freelance wannabe-famous journalist Jonno and his DJ girlfriend Jen, looking for an angle on the story, and of course the killer himself.

The plot spirals and unfurls, myriad threads twisting and turning inexorably towards the finale. It starts as a seemingly straightforward police procedural, but quickly escalates to something more, something other. Something which will stay in your mind for a long time afterwards…

Lauren shows a real mastery of the minutiae of character and has a knack for getting under their skin – scenes are beautifully written and the whole paints a chilling picture of a broken Detroit.

I loved the way she wove social media into the story, from Jonno’s listicles and his shot at fifteen minutes of fame on YouTube to Layla & Cas playing out school life against an backdrop of texts where secrets never remain secrets for long. The subplot where the girls track down a paedophile is particularly chilling and nicely played. The characters are all ultimately the broken monsters of the title.

In anyone else’s hands it could have been formulaic, but Lauren’s broken monsters inhabit the page and edge their way into your dreams.

Sleep well, she said…

Fat chance.


disclaimer: as I mentioned above, I received an advance copy of the book for review. However, the review is my own honest opinion.

A Creativity Blog Hop

Earlier this week I was tagged by Kay from Cheery Little Thing to join in with the Creativity Blog Hop. Thanks for the tag, Kay and thanks for the nice things you said about my blog and my photos!

The rules of the blog hop are to answer the three set questions and then nominate two other people to take part. So without further ado, here are the questions and my answers:

#1 What have been the doings/makings/scribblings at your desk over the past week or so?
Ooh, right. Now then. I’ve been working on a story idea with my friend John who I’ve known for about ten years now (crikey, time flies) and was introduced to as part of a writer’s group.

We used to meet up for a chat and to exchange story snippets (and eat chips, if I recall correctly). I ended up getting a job at the same place as John, the writing continued but he was always more prolific than me, but not as prolific as Dave, the guy who introduced us. Dave would regularly churn out tens/hundreds of thousands of words whilst I would manage a bit, usually starring Monty (some of which has featured on this very blog and which was mainly written to amuse myself.

Recently John suggested a collaboration – he’s come up with a start of story snippet and we’re working on that together. Though mainly bouncing ideas around at the moment, but it’s definitely got some potential.

Also, a few years back I found myself in the middle of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where I managed to churn out 50,000 words of sci-fi shenanigans. It was fun to write and has the germ of a plot in it, but I could never work out quite what was wrong with it. Various people turned up and did various things to various other people. They went from point A to point B whilst others went from point C to point D, when really the people at D needed to be at A in order to to get to C before they got to B. It was all very confusing so I put it to one side to pick up another day.

Then I saw a post about how J.K. Rowling plotted Harry Potter with a hand-drawn spreadsheet and was struck that this was the answer – take the plot threads as I have them and put them into a spreadsheet – this will let me see who’s doing what, where and when. And, more crucially, will let me work out how the various threads all tie together.

So I’ve been looking at that too. Fun!

#2 Where are you currently finding your inspiration?

See, I should really read the questions first, eh? See above for the writing stuff.

Regular readers will know that I’m a keen photographer. I’ve posted up some photos on here and I’ve got a ton over on Flickr. Inspiration for photos can come from anywhere, but I really like exploring and finding the little bits of everyday life which often get missed. I’ve spent years exploring Leeds and taking photos. I also like sunsets a a lot.

Inspiration for blog posts comes from anywhere – you may have noticed (or you will if you stick around) that this blog doesn’t really have a focus, it’s more of a random collection of stuff I’ve found interesting. It varies wildly from musings about maps to a recent A-Z of movies. Seriously, anything could take my fancy at a moment’s notice – some days I’ve blogged three or four times, other times it’s weeks between posts. Hopefully you’ll find something entertaining in here.

#3 How important is being creative to you & how do you blend this with your work/life/family balance?

Ah, now there’s the tricky bit. What with family life (two kids, two guinea pigs and a hamster) and other stuff, we’re usually busy off doing something or going somewhere to visit someone, and by the time the kids are in bed and it’s time to settle down, it’s late and often hard to motivate myself to do anything other than sit in front of twitter or surf the internet rather than do creative things. But then again, Liz has some excellent thoughts on making time for creativity, so I shall be trying to follow her good example…

Now that tagging – I’d like to tag my good friends (and super-creative people) Lucie from Love, Lucie and Mike from Backwards Lion, both of whom are creative in very different ways!

Morvelo City Cross 3 – Leeds – The Snail races again


Fantastic blogpost by Ian – the Morvelo City Cross looks like a huge amount of fun and something I’d really love to try one day.

Originally posted on Into The Orchard:


Trumpets, cowbells, cheers, beers, thrills, spills, music, laughter, beards, baldies, fat bikes, thin bikes, mountain bikes, cross bikes, single speeds, bananaman and a werewolf were all present as the third iteration of the Morvelo City Cross concept hit the mean streets of Leeds.  Never mind the Tour de France, Holbeck Urban Village surely hosted the most fun bike racing that Leeds will see this year, all thanks to Emma Osenton and her mighty crew of helpers and sponsors.

As regular readers of this blog and my projectsnail idea will know I’m no racer and have no ambitions to be but I made my debut at City Cross 2 and seeing as City Cross 3 was basically a roll down the hill from my house I thought it would have been rude not to have another go.  This is racing Jim but not as we know it and while there were…

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off the beaten track

Today I cycled 8 and a half miles, saw two rabbits, a squirrel, a fox and a *huge* dragonfly.

I also got quite lost and had a puncture.

I had a brilliant time.

Regular readers may recall my recent bike-related post, the road less travelled, in which I trundled my merry way around bits of the Wakefield area that I hadn’t explored. I mentioned there was a track down by the golf course under a bridge that I hadn’t yet explored, so today was the day.

I’d had a busy day and only an hour or so to fit my ride into, so set off from home towards the train station. There’s another interesting track down there which I’ve always wondered where it would end up. Turns out it runs alongside the railway track for about half a kilometre and brought me out roughly in the right direction for the golf course. Cross that one off my ‘where does it go?’ list.

I got up to the golf course, found the track and trundled along there quite happily for a while before coming out on the main road about fifty metres from the road leading the golf course.

Cross another one off the list.

Quite pleased with my exploring, I reckoned I had about half an hour left. There was yet another unexplored road nearby (as mentioned in the previous post), so I set off down there.

Up past the houses the road drops to a single track down between the hedges. I spy a couple of fellow cyclists up ahead, just as the road forks. They head off to the left, but I spot a sign saying that Newmillerdam is 2.5 miles off to the right. Now, Newmillerdam is roughly on my way home, ish. So I turn right.

The road disappears at this point, and I’m bumping along a dry track next to some fields. It’s all very scenic and quiet and as I’m bouncing along I spot a rabbit bounding along ahead. It takes off into a field on the left and I come to the end of the track.

There’s a field ahead of me with some fledgling cabbages neatly planted in rows, but there’s a fairly clear path across it, and on the far side I see a yellow marker post for the path. I set off across and soon get to the trees on the other side. The track here is pretty narrow, but just wide enough to cycle down, albeit very carefully. There’s a bridge at the bottom crossing the railway track, then it opens out onto another field.

This is where it goes slightly pear-shaped.

Now, this field is thigh-high with greenery. There’s no obvious track going across it. I can go left or right. Right looks a bit overgrown, and left is downhill.

Left it is. I get to the bottom of the field and there’s still nothing obvious indicating which way to go. I pause for a swig of water and another rabbit bursts from cover, spots me and hurtles off into the hedge to my left.

Oh well. I continue down the edge of the next field – I can see a road in the distance, and have worked out roughly where I am. I just need to go down this field, find a way through the hedge, and I’m back on the road.

After a dozen or so yards I realise that I really need to be carrying my bike so it doesn’t damage the crops. I’m being nettled and brambled, but the sun is shining and I’ve just spotted the biggest dragonfly I’ve ever seen keeping pace with me. The bottom corner of the field yields no exit, but a curious fox pokes its head out to see what this lycra-clad lunatic is doing.

Along the bottom of the field then, and there! The road. I send an apologetic text home to say I’ll be a little late and set off up the hill.

Hmm. It’s very bumpy.

A little… too bumpy.

Puncture in my rear tyre. And guess who didn’t pack a bike pump? I’ve got all the other paraphenalia for fixing a flat, but the pump is handily attached to my other bike. Ooops.

Still, it’s a fairly slow puncture, so I struggle on up the hill and make it home, a little late, a little sunburned, a little bloody from the brambles, but with a grin on my face.

Look. If I hadn’t taken that track, I’d not have seen the rabbits, the fox or the beautiful dragonfly. I now know that the path *does* lead directly across the field.

But that’s for another day.

Things I learned at Scout Camp

Hesley Wood Scout Activity Centre badge
It was our Scout Group camp this weekend. Sixty Scouts, Cubs and Beavers from Wakefield getting together at Hesley Wood Scout Activity Centre near Sheffield for the weekend. Huge amount of fun, despite the torrential rain on Saturday!

A few things I learned whilst at Scout Camp:

Scout leaders run on tea
Tea is brilliant. Ok, we knew this already. But a nice hot mug of tea in the great outdoors which, and this is the important bit, someone else has made for you, is at least 25% more brilliant. True fact.

First rule of scout camp: Scout leaders (and their assistant adult helpers, ie. me) run on tea. If you see an adult without tea, then chances are high that they need some tea. Make them a brew. Bonus points if you can train a scout to do it.

Inspired by our scout leader, I got myself one of these:
Lifeventure thermal mug
It’s a Lifeventure thermal mug, cost £11 and is absolutely superb at keeping your tea hot – essential when you’re trying to wrangle scouts doing activities. Keeps tea hot for ages. And I mean properly hot. I went for the matt green option (as you can tell) as it’s a bit more grippy than the shiny ones. Already love it.

You can put the world to rights at 2am 
Once the scouts are in bed (or at least in their tents, being relatively quiet), the kettle goes on (again), the chairs come out and the world is put to rights.

Bacon sets you up for the day
Scouts have a virtually limitless capacity for bacon, and don’t really care how burned it is. Some of them actively prefer the more… crispy bits.

Which is handy.

Scouts love something to do
Scouts are great. They’re pretty self-organising if left to their own devices in a wood and will spend ages finding sticks/mud/water. You can keep a scout amused for a surprisingly long time by looking pointedly at a campfire and saying that it needs more firewood.

Campfires are great
Campfires are brilliant. Another thing we all know. But! Did you know that you can make bread (or cake!) on a campfire? Take a Dutch oven (big cast iron pot), pop it on the fire to get nice and hot, put an upturned bowl at the bottom, bread dough or cake mixture in a metal tray/bowl on top, lid on and whoosh. Campfire bread.
campfire bread

A good knife is essential 
Opinel no.6 knife
Something always needs cutting up, be it vegetables, bits of string or just opening packets of something. Mine’s an Opinel No. 6 knife, is ridiculously sharp and is brilliant. I’ve added a bit of sugru (the black stuff) around the locking collar as it can get a bit slippery.

Sporks are great
I love my spork. Some scouts turn up with a range of utensils, but I’ve yet to come across anything at camp that requires anything other than a spork. Mine even matches my new mug. How fancy is that?
spork spork spork

I’m terrible at remembering names
I’ve pretty much got the names of all of our scouts now (only taken 2 years), but when faced with an assortment of cubs and beavers, I’m lost. However, cubs and beavers find it hilarious that you can’t remember their names. I’ll resort to pointing at them and just running through random names until either I get it right or they tell me. They’re even more thrilled when you remember next time!

Slugs are horrible, icky things
Slugs are horrible. Here’s a valuable tip: ALWAYS (and I mean always) check the inside of your boots before putting them on. That squishy lump isn’t mud. And it’s not pleasant to have to clean partially squished slug out of your boots. Or off your socks.

Trust me on this.

Helping out is fun
A recent study suggests that volunteering is good for your health. Certainly on camp you get plenty of fresh air and exercise! It’s also great to give something back – I was in the cubs and scouts when I was younger and had a great time. All of the people running the camp are volunteers, and without them, it wouldn’t happen. Which would be sad. And, many hands make light work.

Fancy getting involved?