… the time-traveling serial killer from Chicago’s past?
The phrase that seems to draw most readers in to Lauren Beukes’s novel, The Shining Girls, is “time traveling serial killer,” which in my opinion, is pretty much all you need to know. Harper Curtis is a man from depression-era Chicago, who stumbles upon the House, which allows him to travel through time and kill these “shining” girls. He does not know these girls, or why they must be killed, but he does so anyway, leaving behind an object from his previous victim as a calling card of sorts. One of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survived, and several years later she enlists the help of a Chicago Sun Times sports reporter named Dan Velasquez to help her track the killer down.
The genre blending at work in this story blew my mind…besides being a serial killer suspense novel involving time travel, there are historical elements at work as well, since Harper travels through Chicago at multiple points in time, plus a smidgen of early 1990’s Chicago sports, since Kirby’s ally at the Sun Times covers the 1993 season for the Cubs. This unexpected blend kept me absolutely riveted.
As a main character, Kirby Mazrachi is a fantastically tough and determined heroine who uses her traumatic near-death experience as energy to keep searching for her would-be killer. I was particularly drawn to her witty, yet sarcastic demeanor - she came across as a strong, yet flawed character. Realistic without being melodramatic. As an adversary, Harper is a frightening villain. While I would have welcomed more of his back-story, his relentless pursuit of these women and his detached, cruel nature help transform him into a believable bad guy. Perhaps not the most dimensional, but certainly frightening.
The story itself jumps back and forth through time as easily as Harper, which admittedly made the first half of the book a bit difficult to follow. Not impossible, just something I had to make sure I paid attention to. But the method and the patterns began to emerge in the second half and suddenly everything started to make a little more sense. It’s definitely a clever plot device, and one that lends itself to another reading, just to pick up on the clues that I missed the first time around.
The book is not perfect, but it has its own unique charm that kept me spellbound. And it could make a good suggestion for anyone looking for something “different” to read, because I guarantee it’s like nothing you’ve ever read before.
Reviewed by Katie (staff)