Title: The Shining Girls
Author: Lauren Beukes
Pages: 375 pages
Rating: 4 stars
The trailer for The Shining Girls is stellar. Seriously. I usually don’t like book trailers and I liked this one. It seems like a movie trailer and also gives you a great sense of the book.
It’s 1931. Harper Curtis is on the run from the law when he discovers the House. Initially entering to hide, Harper realizes that the House allows him to travel backwards and forwards in time. He immediately senses how this house must be used–to find, stalk, and kill young women that “shine” to him, girls with great potential from various parts of 20th Century Chicago.
It’s 1992. Kirby Mazrachi is a spirited young survivor of a horrific attack by an unknown assailant that should have killed her. Haunted by the fact that her attacker is still at large, the determined Kirby takes an internship with ex-crime-reporter-turned-sports-writer Dan Velasquez to dig deeper into her own case. Will Kirby and Dan be able to piece together the pieces of the puzzle Harper has strewn across the decades before Harper comes back to finish her off?
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is a fast-paced, dark tale that mainly alternates between Harper and Kirby’s points-of-view. Kirby is a great heroine; she is brave, smart, and eminently easy to cheer for. Beukes also includes at least one chapter from the perspective of each victim as well, allowing us to get to know these bright, brave young women before they are lost to the world. Told in this manner, The Shining Girls becomes not only an intricately plotted story of suspense, but also a portrait of Chicago and the various challenges faced by women throughout the 20th Century.
I have a weak spot for time travel books. If a book involves time travel in someway, I am much more likely to read it. Some reviewers have called the set-up of the novel gimmick-y, but I loved the idea of a serial killer who time travels. How do you even go about catching someone like that?
As I mentioned earlier, Kirby makes a great heroine. I loved reading her chapters as well as her rapport with Dan. In fact, this book is rich with interesting female characters. I only wish we got to know more of them before they were killed by Harper. I didn’t realize until long after I finished the book how much commentary on the struggles of women throughout the 20th Century . With the time travel element, Beukes could really hone in on different women’s issues at different times. Harper’s shining girls included an abortion clinic worker, an architect in a lesbian relationship, a transgender woman and more.
Of course, with the time travel elements, Beukes also spends a lot of time creating holes in timelines or potential paradoxes and then bringing everything together. The story itself follows Harper chronologically, so there are occasionally elements from his future that come into his present. Beukes does a great job plotting out the time travel and weaving everything together in a cohesive whole.