Good book, with a somewhat poor ending (4 stars)
Source- review copy- from Goodreads
Published July 31st 2014 by Harper Collins
I read the hardback edition which was 400 pages.
The Shining Girls was one of my favourite books of 2013, so it goes without saying that I was so excited to read Lauren Beukes’ newest novel- a book that has been critically acclaimed with one of my favourite authors ever- Stephen King- billing it as a really creepy read.
After Detroit police detectives encounter a very unique corpse, the city’s grip on reality becomes somewhat tenuous and people begin to panic. With the body found being that of half a boy fused with half of a deer, Detective Gabriella Versado is perplexed and disturbed by the macabre events yet suspects that worse may yet be to come….
If I’m honest, I didn’t find this novel out and out scary like I had anticipated- which in all honesty I was a bit disappointed by as I was sort of in the mood to be frightened a bit! I also found myself wondering what it was exactly- police procedural, serial killer thriller, paranormal fantasy type read…? It was sinister, admittedly and certainly opened with a bang, but I doubt I’ll be losing any sleep over its content like some other reviewers out there have said they did. I’m one of the biggest wimps out there as well. Maybe I’m just becoming de-sensitised to these types of reads? That’s somewhat worrying.
What I did really appreciate about this book however were some of its very well-drawn characters- some did feel superfluous to the plot but others I enjoyed getting to know. The teenagers in this story especially felt really believable, all about their love of social media and boys and portrayed as generally pretty self-absorbed. I liked Gabi, the police detective enough, though I have to say that I didn’t feel I connected with her on any deep level. A lot of the protagonists only offer mere glimpses in and out of their lives and the narrative perspective changes between them a lot, which whilst it keeps the pace going can be somewhat jarring.
Like The Shining Girls, Beukes also gets directly into the head of her serial killer, which was fascinating albeit confusing as they were completely messed up. I always wonder what makes people carry out depraved acts or do such monstrous things and this novel explored that to great effect- a killer with absolutely no grasp on their sanity or distinction between what is real or imaginary.
The writing in this book is also very evocative, offering some real atmosphere and taking the reader on a journey of Detroit, a city still struggling to repair itself in the aftermath of financial ruin. This once powerful city is fractured and filled with people leading soulless lives and searching for themselves. We are offered a viewpoint of both Detroit’s beauty via the medium of its underground art scene and its ugliness via a series of murders and it really sprung to life from the pages. From that perspective, the story feels very well-researched.
For me, I found the ending of the story to be something of a let-down, particularly as I’d enjoyed the rest of the novel. To me, it read almost as if the author had just “given up” and couldn’t be bothered to explain anything so simply went with the most far-fetched justification possible and allowed the reader to make their own judgement. It just didn’t fit with the rest of the story and I would rather have had a more concrete denouement.
This book contained a lot of thought-provoking and complex themes, which may be why I found it so difficult to categorise it within any specific genre, though will undoubtedly make it an engaging and entertaining read for book clubs. Though not as attention-grabbing as her previous novel, I would certainly recommend this book to fans of serial-killer and horror stories, or dark police procedurals. Though it goes without saying that if you haven’t done so already, you must check out The Shining Girls as well!