A serial killer thriller with a difference (4.5 stars)
Source- personal copy
Published June 4th 2013 by Umuzi (Random House Struik)
I read the Kindle version which was 384 pages. The paperback is 389 pages.
A time-travelling serial killer thriller? Yes please!
This is the book I’ve been waiting to read. For months now, actually. There’s been a lot of hype around it since its summer release date and I wanted to wait a while until some of the fuss died down and I could read some of the more balanced reviews and decide if it was worth delving into.
Happily it is. This was an absolutely fantastic read that I couldn’t put down, though admittedly it’s easy to see why some people’s opinions are so divided over it. It’s not without its flaws either, but for the most part, I absolutely loved it and devoured every single well-written word.
Harper Curtis is a time travelling serial killer, a man who has stepped out of the past in order to hunt down his victims- young women in the future who ‘shine’ and unconsciously call to him to be his next victims. He resides in a house in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times and it is through these means that he is able to vanish after each of the murders back to the past, the perfect, untraceable villain.
Kirby Mazrachi is one of these shining girls, only by some miracle, she survives her attack and is determined somehow, to bring her would-be killer to justice…
I’ve said this before but: time travel tends to confuse me. A lot. One aspect I particularly enjoyed about this novel therefore was that it was never given an overly complicated explanation at any point during the story. There was no extreme scientific detail involved that saturated the plot. It just… was. Harper was a time-travelling serial killer and I was fine with that. More than fine actually. Without thinking about the complexities and nuances of time travel itself I was able to immerse myself in this book and thoroughly enjoy it. Also, I appreciated that the storyline set ‘in the past’ was just as interesting as that set within a more modern timeframe, so consequently my attention never felt divided and I never grew bored when the timelines changed, which was frequently.
There were some other amazing facets too: I really loved the fact that each ‘victim’ was given their own distinct voice and personality within the book. Beukes’ created victims who would have had so much potential had they lived, and this really resonated with me as a reader. They shine with so much promise and Harper extinguishes that with his violent (graphically so) actions, which is poignant and actually pretty heartbreaking. You realise that had they each lived, they could have gone on to be something great, which isn’t always something taken into account in this genre. A body is usually just a ‘body’ and that’s it.
Kirby as a character was well-drawn and I enjoyed the journey that she undertook through the course of the novel. She was smart and feisty with an unquenchable need to seek the truth- no matter how odd that truth actually was. By teaming up with a journalist, the reader gets to see the determination in her character and how resourceful she can actually be- she was a really strong protagonist, especially given the trauma of everything she has been through. I do have to say though, that the ‘romance’ aspect in this book wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t especially well done and it did detract from the rest of the story. In my opinion it could have been omitted entirely with no consequence to the rest of the plot.
The Shining Girls is smart, engrossing and absorbing and a perfectly paced read throughout. I really loved this book and cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone looking for a serial killer thriller that’s just a little bit different.