I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
When you first read this, your immediate thoughts will be: High School Musical Dexter. And it is. Maybe with a few flourishes to change the “dun-dun-dun-dun-dun” to a “dun-dun-dun-dun-dah”. A young man is the son of a notorious serial killer, a man who pretended to be seven or eight different serial killers and who killed over a hundred people. His name is Jasper Dent, but his friend calls him Jazz because THAT’S A TERRIBLE FUCKING NAME.
Anyway, Dexter had Harry who was a cop and taught him how to use his powers of the Dark Passenger to follow a code and only kill killers. Jasper has Billy Dent who was a killer and was essentially trying to train him to become a killer. Same song, different tunes. Jasper now fights against his urges to kill and his fear that his father may have been right. So Jasper has become fluent in pretending not to be a sociopath, charming people and getting his way. He has one friend, a hemophiliac named Howie, a gawky virgin who spiels terrible double entendres like Vince the other forensic analyst on Dexter. Jazz also has a girlfriend, the only black girl in their small town who is super hot. Jasper fears sex with her, because it might cause his Dark Passenger to emerge.
As expected, bodies appear in Lobo’s Nod and YES THAT’S THE ACTUAL FUCKING NAME OF THE CITY WHY. Jasper wants to investigate the murders, because he feels like he’d have a special insight into this. The sheriff, the man who caught Billy Dent, G. William, wants Jasper to have a normal life to avoid this. But Jasper forces himself to investigate, only to discover someone is mimicking his father’s earliest crimes, a man calling himself The Impressionist. And what follows is the town psycho’s kid trying to solve murders against the wishes of the sheriff. Textbook Dexbook.
Only, here’s where things get interesting. Someone is pulling the strings on the Impressionist. Someone who explicitly forbids him from approaching Jasper. Could it be his father? Or could it be his mother, who disappeared and is feared dead? Or someone else? That little mystery element really helps elevate this series from mere copycattery. And past Howie’s groanworthy dialogue and the afterschool-special racism explored through Connie. That’s where shit gets interesting. And that’s what’s keeping me excited to see how things pan out in Book 2, and the prequels.