Barry Lyga


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Game Summary

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Game is a young adult crime novel with strong horror elements by Barry Lyga. The second book in the I Hunt Killers series, it was first published in 2013. Game picks up where the first book, I Hunt Killers, left off, following the series’ protagonist as he plays a cat-and-mouse game with a lethal serial killer. The series is very popular with its intended teenage audience. Lyga is a bestselling young adult writer. Before writing fiction full-time, he worked in the comic book industry for a decade. He writes across various genres including horror and suspense.

Jasper Dent lives in a small American town called Lobo’s Nod. Jasper, or Jazz, the teenage son of the infamous serial killer Billy Dent, knows that people don’t trust him because of his heritage. Jazz wants to prove that he is nothing like his evil father, and so he helps the local police force solve violent crimes.

In I Hunt Killers, Jazz apprehended a deadly criminal. His bravery attracted the attention of the NYPD. One day, a detective shows up from New York City and demands to speak with Jazz. He begs Jazz for help catching a murder known as the Hat-Dog Killer. The Hat-Dog Killer is one of the cruelest murderers the detective has ever seen, and the detective is convinced that Jazz is the only person who can help catch him.

In the meantime, Billy escapes from a maximum-security prison. Jazz has no doubt that his father will kill more people, but he can’t go looking for Billy until he catches the Hat-Dog Killer. With his girlfriend, Connie, Jazz hops on a plane and heads for New York City. He tries not to think about his father because it will only distract him from the case at hand.

Jazz visits a recent crime scene with the detective, studying the available evidence. What he discovers shocks him. The Hat-Dog Killer brutally murders his victims and mutilates their corpses. Although there is no clear profile yet, it is imperative that Jazz and the NYPD catch him before he kills again. Readers should be aware that Lyga describes the evidence, and the murders, in graphic detail.

Meanwhile, Jazz reflects on his own upbringing. Although Jazz doesn’t kill people, Billy trained him to carry on the family business. Billy wants Jazz to join him on killing sprees. Jazz knows that murder is wrong, but sometimes, he admittedly finds killing people fascinating. Connie understands Jazz’s conflicting feelings and she loves him despite his dark past.

Jazz and Connie aren’t in New York for long before they begin receiving strange and macabre messages. These messages invite them to play a game. Participation is non-negotiable; people who ignore the messages end up dead. Jazz sets about profiling the Hat-Dog Killer based on these messages, and Connie digs up everything she can find about serial killer behavior.

Jazz reveals that, although he loves Connie, he doesn’t want to sleep with her yet. She is ready, and she wants to, but he is stalling. He worries that sex will trigger violent urges and he will somehow kill her. Billy always taught him to dehumanize women and dominate them; he loves Connie too much to risk hurting her. Connie understands but the lack of sexual intimacy strains their relationship.

Everything goes from bad to worse when Jazz’s best friend, Howie, shows up. He wants to help with the investigation, but he is reckless and he doesn’t take anyone’s advice. He gets the wrong idea about who the killer is which leads him to Jazz’s grandmother. She tries to stop Howie from apprehending the wrong person and Howie accidentally shoots her. He runs away without checking whether she is dead or alive. He has no idea how he will tell Jazz what happened.

Meanwhile, the killer focuses his attention on Connie. He drops little clues about who he is, and she suspects that he is Billy. She doesn’t tell Jazz because she doesn’t want to upset him until she is sure. She plays into the killer’s hands and sets off on her own to catch him. When she goes missing, Jazz has no idea that she is walking into Billy’s trap.

In the meantime, Jazz tracks down the true Hat-Dog Killer. He follows the murderer and tracks him down in a workshop. The murderer is too clever for Jazz and he shoots him. Jazz bleeds out and he is too weak to run away. The murderer locks him in a storage unit, and it is unclear whether he will live or die.

Billy traps Connie and decides to toy with her. He wants Jazz to kill her to prove he is truly his father’s son. Billy sets a plan in motion to lure Jazz into his trap. Meanwhile, Howie and the police search for the missing teenagers, and we still don’t know if Jazz’s grandmother is dead or alive. The story continues in book three.