After the events of I Hunt Killers, Jazz's father, Billy Dent, one of the most well-known living serial killers, is free, thanks in part to Jazz. After helping to catch the serial killer known as the Impressionist, Jazz has gained a reputation as being an expert on serial killers. With the growing number of victims of a new serial killer in New York, the Hat-Dog Killer (yes, Hat, not Hot), the police and FBI are stumped and growing frustrated, leading one New York detective to contact Jazz for help. But there is far more at play than anyone realizes, and Jazz just might be getting in over his head.
Like the first book in the series, Game requires a suspense of disbelief. I was able to do it for the first, but quickly found it very difficult to do in this book. Jazz's involvement in the first case made sense. The serial killer in question was mimicking his father's kills, which Jazz was incredibly familiar with because he grew up with it. He's obsessed with anything having to do with his father, so it made sense for him to immediately latch onto the pattern and then determinedly investigate. Here we have Jazz being contacted by the police on a completely different case. More unbelievable, but I was willing to go with it. Until we got to his actual interactions with the police and FBI where he begins to tell them how to do their jobs and proceeds to do their jobs better than them. And I mean everything. He's profiling better than them. He's finding stuff at crime scenes that they totally missed. He's telling medical examiners what was done to the bodies by just looking at it. Everyone in the police department and FBI is being beaten by a 17 year old. I get that Jazz was raised by a really good serial killer, but I still find it hard to believe that he was taught how to do all of those things to the point where he is better than professionals. It just got ridiculous after a bit.
This book also had the POVs of Connie, Jazz's girlfriend, and Howie, Jazz's best friend. While I liked them in the first book, this book changed my opinions of them drastically. Connie spends the entirety of this book doing incredibly stupid things because she doesn't like the idea of being left out of things and obsessing over having sex with Jazz, despite the fact that he has made it very clear that he does not want to have sex. When Jazz is first contacted by the police, Connie insists that she's coming along, even though she has nothing to offer the police in terms of help. When Jazz says no, Connie lies to her parents and goes to New York anyways. And the police officer then just lets her tag along. And she's so scary that she intimidates the police officer. When she is
contacted by a serial killer, she doesn't tell the police or her parents, but instead decides to play a game with the unknown person, resulting in her knowingly walking into a trap alone without having told anyone exactly where she was going.
I get that she's a teenager and thinks that she knows better than everyone else, but she acted like such a brat and did so many stupid things that I just couldn't like her anymore. Especially when all the sex stuff gets factored in.
Because of Jazz's messed up childhood, he heavily associates sex with killing and does not feel comfortable with the idea of having sex. It's something that he's working on, but he's just not there yet, and he is very upfront with Connie on the fact that he doesn't want to have sex. Connie does though. Her solution to this dilemma is to try to stick her hand down his pants while they're making out. He freaks out and pushes her away and gets away from her as quickly as possible. When she starts thinking about this later, we first get the thought from her that there are only two good reasons for a guy not to want to have sex with her: he's gay or dead. I know I've been wishing there were more female leads with confidence about themselves, but I don't want it like this where a girl thinks that because she's hot, the only good reason to reject her advances is because the guy is gay. She then follows that up with:
Had she been unfair to Jazz the night before? Was she still being unfair to him? He'd made it pretty clear that he wasn't ready for the big step to Real Sex. What kind of girlfriend was she if she couldn't understand and respect that?
Then again...maybe he was the one being unfair to her. All kinds of people had traumas in their pasts. Not all of them were completely unable to connect with other people. And Jazz had proven many, many times in the past that he had no problem making out—they'd kissed, touched, probed, and groped each other in every way imaginable. He had drawn a line he refused to cross for no good reason and she was on the other side of that line, begging him to cross over.
The first paragraph, I liked. The second, not so much. She doesn't get to decide for Jazz when he should be over his trauma and ready to have sex. He drew that line because that was something he wasn't comfortable with doing. Just because she's ready for sex, it doesn't mean that he's ready. Connie trying to push him to do something he's not comfortable with doing is not okay. He was clear from the start where he stood on sex. If Connie's not okay with that, then she should break up with him and find someone else. There'd be nothing wrong with that. She needs to figure out what is important to her about a relationship. If sex is important to Connie, then Jazz is not the right person for her now. It's okay to like someone, but realize that you're just not on the same page and that it's not working. It's not okay to try to force your partner into having sex with you when they've made it clear that they don't want to. When talking with Jazz about it later, she says that she thinks "we" are ready. Not "I" am ready. "We" are ready. I think the fact that Jazz's reaction to your attempt at sex is to push you away and literally throw himself off the bed shows that he is not, in fact, ready to have sex. And Connie doesn't get to decide when he is. Now, Connie does eventually tell him that she's willing to wait, which is good, but after watching her try to have sex with him when he'd been clear on not being ready and hearing her thoughts on the matter, I just don't trust that she won't try again.
Then there's Howie. His ongoing plot involves him attempting to sleep with Jazz's aunt, despite her telling him from the start that it wasn't going to happen. And I mean she literally says "It's not going to happen" the very first time he tries to hit on her. Yet he persists.
And a more minor quibble: the use of the word 'graffito' got very grating very fast. It's the singular of graffiti, as explained in the book. But like the word 'datum' being the singular of data, no one uses the singular unless they want to be incredibly annoying. Graffito is used more commonly in archaeology, from what I've read. Using it in reference to everyday graffiti though? Not at all common. It's another one of those words where common use becomes the accepted proper use. I'm not sure how many times 'graffito' was used in the book, but it sure felt like a lot, and it felt awkward every single time I read it.
The serial killer case itself is interesting. There's more going on than anyone initially thinks, and Billy is, of course, wrapped up in things as well. I was more interested in the big serial killer game that is being hinted at throughout the book than anything that was going on with Connie or Howie. Jazz's story with Billy is what drew me into the series initially, and it was the big thing that helped me push through this book. I struggled getting through Game, which is really disappointing after enjoying the first book so much.