Book Review: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Loved this science-fiction/murder mystery mash-up.
As soon as I heard about a book with a time traveling serial killer who is hunted by the one victim who survived his attack, I was hooked! And this book delivered!
The one little annoyance for me was occasionally having to go back to the beginning of previous chapters to check the dates. The time periods skipped around a lot until the last quarter of the book. Several times, I forgot some dates for certain events and would want to look them up. Took a bit more effort with an e-book than a hardback.
Nevertheless, the intertwining plots kept surprising me. Oh, there were certain events that you know will happen because you've already skipped around in time and another character has revealed that detail. However, there are other interactions that come out of the blue.
This plot just moves steadily along building suspense until the last quarter when it truly takes off, so a fast read.
Time travel was never truly explained. The killer named Harper found a key to this House where he thinks of a date, steps out the door, and arrives at that time. I loved that Beukes never explained this portal, which does limit Harper to traveling between the 1920s and 1990s.
And I did particularly enjoy this sentence about the time dynamic between the killer and his hunter: "It doesn't matter that this has happened before in his past, because it is folded over into her present, like origami."
At first, I thought her use of the House was similar to Stephen King's use of the diner in 11/22/63. However, the House here was more than a portal.
Throughout the book, the deaths were described, but not in grisly graphic detail. Beukes does like the word entrails. But her writing style for most of the deaths was quite tame. And I believe she had reasons for not adding any figurative language or forensic details.
Is this novel the story of the serial killer who was compelled to hunt his victims through time, or is it the story of the shining girls who were all extraordinary in their own way? I would argue that this book was about the shining girls, hence the title.
The girls in this book were not like the girls in Kiss the Girls by James Patterson where each girl had a particular talent to add to the collection. Here, these women shine because of their strength of character. Their grit. They shine through time. I loved how Beukes implied that strength of character is an enduring trait.
So she gave us glimpses into the lives of the shining girls before they were killed making their victimization and murder even more horrific. She didn't need to hit her audience with forensic detail to rattle us emotionally. I felt the loss of every character and Kirby's rage at surviving the attack with no one to hold accountable because I felt like I had gotten to know each girl just enough to recognize her chutzpah.
This novel covered a time period in America where women's rights varied greatly. Feminism was born. And Harper perfectly embodied the qualities of the quintessential old school creepy creeperson who believed women had their place as second class citizens. He saw how each girl shone and he had to extinguish that light. He was going to kill every shining girl who dared to question the status quo.
And the police and the establishment were not much help because they were in a different time. Sometimes in this story, they were even literally in a different time.
The only drawback to reading this book? Now I have to find someone else who has read it, so we can discuss it! This book is a perfect choice for a book club.