Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: The Shining Girls


The future is not as loud as war, but it is relentless. It has a terrible fury all its own."

Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.

Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.

At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He's the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.

Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth . . .

THE SHINING GIRLS is a masterful twist on the serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing heroine in pursuit of a deadly criminal. -  Mulholland Books

I'm not really sure what to say about THE SHINING GIRLS by Lauren Beukes except it is unlike any novel I've ever read. It's part murder mystery, part suspense, part time travel, and part supernatural; and if I'm being entirely honest, the premise didn't really capture my interest initially. A serial killer who travels through time with the help of a house and murders "girls who shine" -- seriously? It all just seemed a bit out there to me, and I was pretty sure that I wouldn't be able to buy into this premise.

But guess what? After getting past the initial set-up, I did buy into the story... even the time travel and supernatural aspects of it. You could have knocked me over with a feather. As a result, I ended up liking THE SHINING GIRLS quite a bit; and I can definitely say that it was an intelligent and, at the same time, a disturbing read. How's that for a combination?

THE SHINING GIRLS tells the story of Kirby Mazrachi, a shining girl who actually survives the brutal attack of a serial killer. She is visibly damaged by the crime and is determined to find the man who almost took away her life. So she gets an internship with a Chicago newspaper and sets out to learn about the crime (and others) with some help from her mentor/boss Dan Velasquez.

The man responsible for the murders is Harper Curtis, a man who discovered a key to a house in Depression-era Chicago. Upon entering this house, he finds that the inside is at odds with the run-down exterior; and he also learns that the house has the ability to move him through time. Harper travels through various decades and meets young girls who "shine." He eventually returns to a future decade (or a past one depending on how you look at it), finds the girls again, and brutally murders them.

I think what most impressed me about THE SHINING GIRLS was the author's writing. I mentioned that I'm not a big fan of this genre; however, she definitely made the story seem possible. That's a huge credit to her writing and her ability to tell a story. While there are definitely parts of this story that sound implausible, the author did such a wonderful job of bringing each decade to life.. and making the events real.  It was apparent that she did a tremendous amount of research because all of the details about the setting were so rich and authentic.

Another thing I enjoyed about THE SHINING GIRLS were the characters. I loved Kirby! She was extremely damaged but also very strong and persistent. I appreciated her resourcefulness when it came to investigating the crimes and going after Harper, and I also really liked her quirkiness. There is no doubt that Kirby is one memorable character!

I also thought Ms. Beukes did a marvelous job in bringing Harper to life. He was horrible and creepy and scary, and she created exactly the type of villain that causes readers to shake in their shoes. Like Kirby, I won't be forgetting Harper for quite some time!

And finally, I liked the way the book was setup and the story was presented. It was pretty darn original! There were chapters about the various characters, including the murder victims; and the story  moved back and forth between the current story line and the past ones. Time travel stories can be confusing and there were times in the beginning when I was kind of scratching my head; however, I quickly caught on to the basic idea as well as Harper's actions.

Furthermore, I appreciated the different tones Ms. Beukes used for the various characters' chapters. Naturally, I expected Harper's, Dan's, and Kirby's sections to reflect their individual personalities; however, I loved that the chapters about the murder victims all had a different feel to them. I thought these differences in the tones really showed just how talented a writer Ms. Beukes is.

If you are looking for an unusual murder story with some time travel elements, then I definitely suggest giving THE SHINING GIRLS a try. I have no doubt that you will be impressed with the author and her storytelling abilities.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Lord, as if serial killers weren't bad enough, and now they're traveling thru time to do it! LOL But actually, that would be a clever way to avoid getting caught.

bermudaonion said...

I love it when a book surprises me like that. I hope to give this one a try soon.

Beth Hoffman said...

I've never been a fan of stories that involve time travel, but I have to say that your review really grabbed my attention and I just might put this one on my list!

Beth F said...

Wow -- I'm so surprised that you liked this one. I usually like time travel books, so I need to make sure I get to this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such an in-depth review about a book I had never heard of. Believe me, I am putting this on my wishlist as we speak. Sounds like a great plot and you praise the author's ability to deliver; that's all I need to know.