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The Shining Girls is a novel by South African author Lauren Beukes. The book centers on a time-traveling Depression-era drifter who must murder the "shining.
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- Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Shining Girls
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- The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Lines like "The door swings open into darkness, and for a long, terrible moment, he stands paralyzed by possibilities" capture Beukes's penchant to tell and not show. This extends to her only superficially vivid portrait of Chicago. We're told that it's Capone's town in the s and by the '90s we get some descriptions of urban decay, but really, "shabby jazz joints" and "ragged children" could be a lot of places. References to local institutions stand in for any felt sense of what those institutions mean, but one suspects that this is largely the point.
The setting is as spectral as the prose itself, which allows anyone from anywhere to project onto it. It isn't surprising that Beukes claims admiration for David Mitchell, reigning king of global fiction in a formal sense as well as a market one, in a recent South African interview. The flip side of Mitchell's much-heralded lack of boundaries is a sense that connection must yield to the demands of connectivity, as geographic scope or temporal, in Beukes's case stands in for depth of character or craft. This isn't necessarily a bad thing if one thinks that erratic "mapping" is what fiction must do to be truly of-the-moment, but it results in portraits so hackneyed as to border on offensive.
The Holy Mountain section of Mitchell's novel Ghostwritten -- a composite sketch of stereotypes about Asian female victimization and spirituality -- is a good example of this. Beukes's attempts to channel black American voices, especially young, male ones, sometimes reminded me of white people parodying Ebonics at my middle school in the '90s. What Beukes does well -- and might yet do better, given half a chance, with less money on the line -- is capture the whimsical joys of time-travel removed from cardboard people who think things like, "For God's sake, she's not even a socialist, let alone a member of the Communist Party.
But she's artistic. And these days that's bad enough. Because artists socialize with all kinds of people. Like blacks and left-wing radicals and people with opinions. At the end of The Shining Girls , then, one does not have the impression that Beukes is a master stylist, or of having uncovered a master plot. Her killer sums up my sense of the novel he's in with his claim that we read life in "A desperate attempt at order because we can't face the terror that it might all be random.
How can investigators track down a killer who is no longer there to be caught, having absconded to a different decade? That's just the task that Kirby Mazrachi, all unknowing, has set herself. She may be the only one of Curtis' victims to survive: after a brutal attack in , she was left for dead, and the killer is unaware that she is still alive.
Kirby is determined to solve her own 'case' even though the cops have given it up. She's pursued investigative journalism, and her internship at a newspaper office has given her a working relationship with a former homicide reporter. He's reluctant to turn back to the traumas of crime after moving on to the sports world - but Kirby is nothing if not tenacious. Good stuff - nicely plotted, beautifully written. View all 5 comments. Apr 30, Wanda rated it it was amazing Shelves: female-authors , read-in , mysteries-thrillers , time-travel , psychopaths.
Just wow. I'm amazed at the mixed reviews that this book has received. I loved it. A time traveling serial killer. A girl who survived his attack. She tries to put her life back together and to put an end to his murdering ways.
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I felt deliciously drunk on time, as the chapters changed POV and year, but all clearly marked by the title heading. During the last several chapters, my feet were making little running motions and I kept checking to see how many pages of tension were left. That's rare. What is also rare? The killer doesn't come off as sexy or overly intelligent or all that slick.
Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Shining Girls
In short, he is not glorified at all. I would recommend this novel highly. View all 3 comments. I wanted to like this book way more than I actually did. The premise of it sounds wonderful. A time traveling serial killer? Color me intrigued. The thing was this book reads so slow that I kept falling asleep. There's a house that allows this cray cray man to travel across time.
Spotting girls that "shine" and going back later when they have grown up and killing them. I thought the "shine" thing would draw me in since I loved that theme in The Shining and Doctor Sleep. There are I wanted to like this book way more than I actually did. There are some good moments in this book but for me they just didn't keep up with the snoozes. I gave it a 2 star just because I managed to finish it. View all 12 comments. First, we'll address the pound gorilla in the room.
How's the family? Autumn's growing up too quick and Chris You know how dudes are. So what is it that I can help you with, E.?
Just wanted to address you. Well you should know that this is a terrible joke and, if people laugh, they'll be laughing at you, not with you. Just wanted to make that clear. Say, do you First, we'll address the pound gorilla in the room. Say, do you have any bananas? Piss off. If you do not read chapter titles, you will soon Amelia Earhart your way into history.
I do not like chapter titles. All too often, authors ruin their own books by putting spoilers in their chapter headings. It's a huge pet peeve of mine, so when I come across a book with chapter titles, I skip them. I feel this way: the important information should be worked into the actual chapters and not lazily dropped into the chapter headings.
- 'The Shining Girls' is a time-jumping murder thriller.
- The Aurum Solis Initiation Ceremonies and Inner Magical Techniques.
- What's Inside.
Lauren Beukes not only uses chapter titles in lazy ways, but if you miss whose head and the time you're in, the book becomes a mess very quickly. More than twice I had to flip backward to make sure I knew who I was with and where in time we were. I shouldn't have to do that, Lauren. Shame on you. Other than that, this book is great. The plot isn't the most original serial killer bouncing through time ala Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper in that one old movie , but Beukes does manage to make what happens interesting. I think where Beukes shines get it?
She goes into deep detail concerning the smallest character. Most importantly, she made me care, or at the very least understand , the red shirts in this book. Every corpse had a pulse at one point in time, and I dig that she paid so much attention to their history. Once I managed to get a feel for the flow of the story, I enjoyed myself. Are their problems? Several of them. But I didn't notice until after I finished reading.forum.pickupartist.ro/Sources/torrance/2826-mujeres-en-sevilla.php
The Shining Girls
But the best part of this book is Beukes writing. It's smooth and seemingly effortless. I blew through pages a sitting because, once I started reading, I couldn't put the book down. In summation: Not everyone will like Beukes because she forces you to pay attention. If you skip chapter headings, you will be super fucking confused. If you don't like a huge cast of characters, you'll likely not like this, because every third chapter or so is from a brand new person's POV.
She gets into the heads of every victim, so expect to learn some of everything about everybody. I didn't mind. In fact, the big cast was one of my favorite parts. Final Judgment: Pay attention for full payoff. Dude was always getting the shit kicked out of him and fucking up. I like that this killer wasn't meticulous and perfect. My favorite of these scenes was when he got his jaw broken. I love Kirby and Dan's relationship.
No instant love. They were a mess and treated each other like the messes they were. Did I read the ending right? Did Harper's ghost haunt the house and create the rift in time? Is that what happened? An how does a haunting create time travel. If you have a better explanation of that ending, comment below. Don't forget your spoiler tags, though. That being said, I enjoyed the ending. I liked how it wrapped everything together, even if it was weird as fuck. Thanks for joining me!
View all 6 comments. There are many, many serial killer novels out there, but not one that is quite like this. Featuring a killer, who stumbles onto a house that lets him travel through time to find what he calls, his "shining girls. How does one possibly catch a killer that can kill and then escape to another time. He does leave a few clues, and Kirby, who did not die and is the one who got away, wants nothing more than to hunt him down. I l There are many, many serial killer novels out there, but not one that is quite like this. I loved that this is set in Chicago, and we are shown Chicago all the way through the thirties to the nineties.
I just read that this highly inventive novel has been optioned by DiCaprio's production company, for television. Although at times it did get confusing, what year when, the concept mattered more than the details and as I read it did get easier. It is pretty descriptive so definitely not for the faint of heart, but I was thoroughly entertained. I read this book as it was listed somewhere as a"Top twenty must-read books of the summer.
I read a lot of "book lists" because I read a lot of books. It is billed as a "Serial Killer" novel with a twist-Time travel. OK, I'm sold. Bring it on! This book tries so damn hard to be clever that it loses its focus straight out of the gate. It is so caught up in the vehicle of "time travel" that it becomes snared in the trappings of 'contrived nuance.
The author Lauren Beukes is working, and working to set the mood with some parts heavily laden with detail and it becomes obvious in her efforts to gain your attention. Didn't work. The killings are sometimes quite gory, but rarely did I feel any tension. I found myself skipping various parts as Beukes breaks character here, adds too much detail there, and leaves you going "huh?
The character development was completely lacking. Our protagonist, Kirby, never comes through. She is a husk of a persona built solely on a little bad upbringing and one major trauma. This could have been magnificently done. Alas, it was not. Protagonist number two is Dan. Basically, another husk who, when he has, shall we call them, "feelings" he basically pants like a schoolboy. I half-expected him to actually trip over his own tongue at one point like a Looney Tunes character. He is as sophomoric as some parts of this tale are written. The character that was best built, the one for whom I felt the most?
Harper, our Serial Killer. This would be just fine if I even thought that Beukes wanted this, but it is apparent that she wants us to feel and root for Kirby and Dan. If you think I am throwing out spoliers here-not even close. You find this all out really fast and I am not even getting to the other devices employed. I will note though, another part that gave to the choppy feel was the jump from victim to victim through time. While I believe Beukes wanted the reader to see little vignettes, this reader found essence of naught.
I just could not bring myself to care. Due to this, every time we came back around to Kirby and Beukes would go into some intimate description I could not get through it. I would scan it knowing exactly the point she was trying to make, exactly what I was to take away and read on from there. So very transparent.
Good example, about some pages in yeah-that far she is describing Kirby going through a box filled with things from her childhood. I knew exactly what she was looking for and so will you if you read this. The description of each object, naming them, citing the color, etc. Fraught with detail, but we were so far into this book and so lacking in any character development for Kirby that I really could not care less about her box of mementos. I found the payout about 1. Don't even get me started on the ending. OK, so why am I giving this 2.
As I noted, Beukes is trying so hard to be clever, but the fact is-the concept is clever! I don't want to spoil, but the notion of the killer moving through time, escaping some detection and moving around other obstacles-I loved it. The execution of this concept is just not well done in this book and it was a slow read.
Where Beukes has flashes of brilliance is in her ability to construct a good skeleton for a tale, but the meat was never grafted to the bone. Read it if you are hungry for a serial killer book with some novel conceptualization, but nothing more. Jun 27, Greg rated it really liked it Shelves: girls-girls-girls , fiction. My problem lately with books is that I have been generally enjoying what I've been reading, but I just haven't had much to say about them once I'm done. Time-travelling serial killer.
That's my plot summary. I don't think when I was recently recommended to try to write a review in four sentences or less that is what the guy had in mind. I'm sure there is a logic to this that I just missed, that's my one gripe with the book hide spoiler ] I enjoyed this a lot. It did take me over a week to read, but that's just because I wasn't reading much at home and there something in my bag that likes to stain some things that go in my bag and not other things. It seems to only mess up things that are nice and this book looks quite nice.
And it's signed. So I figured there was no chance it would survive my mysterious bag and what I'm calling time travelling staining shit. Because, seriously, I've gone through it, and I can find nothing in the bag that should be making some things but not others come out dirty and stained.
Here is the signature in the book, since I mentioned it. And because Karen showed hers, and it's polite to show yours too when a lady shows hers. It's never polite to just show yours first totally unprompted. Ok one more mini-gripe. I hope if you didn't read the book you didn't read gripe one. I groaned a little bit when Kirby went to a Naked Raygun show. There seemed to be so much research put into the book, getting little details correct and stuff and then Naked Raygun? Not that I'm saying it's historically inaccurate, but if you asked me right now, "Hey Greg I'm writing a story that takes place in Chicago in the early 90's and I want to let her go to a punk show, what band should she be seeing?
If you asked me to give a different band for another show she'd be seeing a few nights later that was also from Chicago I'd stare at you blankly and have nothing to give you were Los Crudos around by that time? Of course there is no such thing as a Fugazi t-shirt, there is a This Is Not a Fugazi t-shirt, and I think some mall stores I remember had some kind of bootleg Repeater shirt for sale with Guy all tangled up in guitar chords, but Kirby doesn't strike me as the type who would buy her punk shirts at the early 90's equivalent of Hot Topic or whatever the modern day equivalent is and at that point in time wearing a Fugazi t-shirt was kind poseurish, along the same lines of some kid getting all bent out of shape because someone said Primus Sucks, when everyone knows that meant you liked them which is a terrible example, because there really is no winner in coolness on either side of that exchange, but even if Fugazi's album was sort of a disappointment to people I knew, they still had a mystique about them that you didn't want to tarnish by putting on a Brockum they made most of the rock shirts at that time, and maybe still do copyrighted This is Not a Fugazi shirt.
What shirt would I have put her in? I don't know, maybe some other Dischord band that wasn't so 'pure' as Ian and co. But really these aren't even worth complaining about, and I mean that even though I've spent most of the review blabbing about it. If you were reading this review to find out if maybe you want to try this book that people keep calling this summer's Gone Girl , I'm sorry. You shouldn't have had to read this nonsense.
But, lots of people are saying this. I've heard it from all kinds of people where I work and I don't think they are all just parroting each other. It's not like Gone Girl redux, obviously, but it's a strong thriller type story with a strong female presence. But I'm sorry for wasting your time. But thank you for reading. Reviewer liberties. But Lauren Beaukes wanted to sign on the page she did, which totally makes sense because there is so much room. I'm not exactly sure why some authors sign only after they cross out their own printed name. If only there were a machine in my home that I could just type any stupid question into and get back answers immediately.
When will technology come up with something like that? Of course I know other Chicago bands from that time. Screeching Weasel and those bands that were around with them. Ok, I'm just stupid, but still until a few seconds ago, if you had asked me for a Chicago band in the early 90's you would have gotten Naked Raygun as an answer and a blank stare, probably just because the other bands were still around later in the 90's and I think of them as being from that time period more than from the years that punk broke.
View all 7 comments. Jun 19, Kelly and the Book Boar rated it liked it Shelves: girls-girls-girls , read-in I was so ready to amp it up to 1. But then. The premise sounded great and the first scene in the book grabbed my attention since it reminded me of one of my favorite serial killers but sadly, the delivery of the remainder failed to keep it.
Talk about the most one-dimensional bad guy of all time. Delete the time travel b. View all 10 comments. Sep 19, Elyse Walters added it. I made a mistake with this -Im not going to to continue. Jul 22, Jean rated it it was ok Shelves: So disappointing. Beukes must have an incredible agent, because the buzz around this book was crazy.
I expected a feminist science fiction thriller, where an alternative, parallel history of revolutionary women is wiped out by an agenda-driven killer. This book turned out to be a run-of-the-mill slasher novel with an unexplained time-travel element. Instead, the historical characters are just cartoons. In fact, all the characters — historical or not -- are cartoonish. This was most annoying when it came to the ethnic characters.
Has Lauren Beukes never met an actual person of color? They talk and behave nothing like real people. It bothered me that Beukes chose to write the chapters about the African American homeless guy basically in dialect. First of all, her imitation of the idiom is embarrassingly bad. There are a lot of other problems with this book.
Beukes is terrible at writing dialogue — instead of talking to each other, her characters speak in weird contorted ways in order to dump information on the reader. Her historical-cultural references all feel like they came out of a Wikipedia entry. The book does have some good moments. May 15, Joe Valdez rated it it was amazing Shelves: sci-fi-time-travel. Here's a novel I did not cotton to at all through 80 pages. It's written in present tense.
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It's fragmented, with a few chapters no longer than four pages. The narrative unfolds from at least four different recurring points of view and over ten total. It's a puzzle that fits together at odd angles. It was not going to be my cup of tea. That's what I thought. The time bending begins in , with a gimp footed creeper named Harper Curtis approaching a little girl named Kirby Mazrachi on a playground. Harper isn't here to hurt the girl, not yet. He seeks to make a memorable impression, but upsets Kirby nonetheless. Before leaving, Harper gives her something, a plastic toy horse.
Jumping back to , Harper is chased through a hobo camp for slicing open a man's neck in a card game. He meets a blind woman who has been told to expect him. The blind woman offers Harper a coat. Inside the coat, Harper finds a key to a tenement house, a very special house, on Chicago's west side.
By , a year-old Kirby, raised in Chicago by a free-spirited single mother, is fumbling through her first sexual experience. Across town, the man she met in the playground has disemboweled a year-old economics student. Among the items found on her is a cassette tape featuring Janis Joplin. At the time, no one thinks anything of it. Harper has discovered that the tenement house has an ability to transport him to different eras in Chicago when he concentrates on a different girl, a special girl, a "shining girl", who is destined to fall under his knife. In a bedroom upstairs, personal effects from each of these girls fade in and out of time: a baseball card from , a cassette tape from , a tennis ball from In one of the more harrowing scenes I've encountered in a novel, Kirby crosses paths with Harper again in while walking her dog in a bird sanctuary.
She's not expected to live more than a week after she's discovered, but does, and goes on to intern at the Chicago Sun-Times. Kirby chooses to mentor under year-old Dan Velasquez, a divorced sportswriter who still has contacts in the police through his work on the crime beat. The brutality and unsolved nature of Kirby's attack prompted him to look for a new line, but Kirby is not satisfied that her attack was random and begins digging into other unsolved stabbings in the Chicago area. The most bizarre detail of Kirby's attack is that the killer tossed a vintage cigarette lighter at her as he fled.
Researching stabbings in which strange artifacts were left at the scene, Kirby uncovers a murder in in which one of the victim's aging children swears a Jackie Robinson baseball card was found on their mother. Robinson didn't join the Brooklyn Dodgers until , a fact that Dan easily verifies.
Dubbing their suspect The Vintage Killer, Kirby ultimately draws an association between her attack in and the man she met in the playground in Digging through her old toys, she finds the plastic horse he left behind and a manufacture date on the object: It's not only terrifying at turns, but staggered my imagination. The idea of a serial killer traveling through time certainly isn't new; it served as the basis for one of the best time travel movies ever made, Time After Time in What Beukes does is speculate that if the future of the victims has already been determined, the fate of their killer has been as well.
To stop him, it's up to the protagonists to piece together what's going on and what their role should be in ending it. Beukes overcame my unease with present tense and her preference for "telling instead of showing" by telling me about characters who were full of life, vulnerable as they were, well, weird. Like John Ajvide Lindqvist did, dispersing nostalgia throughout her thriller pays off for Beukes: "You want to watch a video? So they do.
And they end up fumbling around on the couch, kissing for an hour and a half, while Matthew Broderick saves the world on his computer. They don't even notice when the tape runs out and the screen turns to bristling static, because his fingers are inside her and his mouth his hot against her skin. And she climbs on top of him and it hurts, which she expected, and it's nice, which she'd hoped, but it's not world-changing, and afterwards they a kiss a lot and smoke the rest of the cigarette, and he coughs and say: "That wasn't how I thought it would be.
Beukes writes in an almost graphic novel style that left me wanting through the first 80 pages. I didn't want to be told that Harper fled from a saloon fight, I wanted to see it on the page. The Shining Girls is more work than that. If I'd taken a week to read this, I might have been immune to the virus Beukes introduces. Reading it over the course of Thanksgiving Day, I plowed through without protective measures, gave myself over to the fever and saw things I typically don't in a novel.
For example, the fragmented nature gives voices to each of the murdered women. We're invested in their lives and believe that if Kirby survived her attack, maybe they will too. No punches are pulled in the novel. The violence is harrowing and the suspense is gut wrenching. I would not recommend this to anyone easily upset. But as Tana French points out in her cover blurb, as scary as the book is, it's also "utterly original" and "beautifully written". The experience Kirby has smoking pot with her mother for the first time or the loneliness of a transsexual stripper in are as vivid and moving as the lyrics a Tom Waits song.
I think that a book whose antagonist is a time tripping murderer of women, both extremes should be there, the ugly and the beautiful. Cutting the rougher edged stuff would've been dishonest to the human experience. In the acknowledgements, Beukes credits "a crack team of researchers" and names no fewer than thirty experts she sought for historical data or that the South African author approached for information on Chicago.
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I'll be adding more novels by Beukes to my reading list posthaste. Feb 18, Apatt rated it really liked it Shelves: sci-fi. A monster that sucks people's brains out their heads is far less disturbing than a serial killer that stalks and kills girls for no reason. There is a layer of unreality in the brain sucking monster scenario that makes it not at all disturbing regardless of how graphic th A monster that sucks people's brains out their heads is far less disturbing than a serial killer that stalks and kills girls for no reason.
There is a layer of unreality in the brain sucking monster scenario that makes it not at all disturbing regardless of how graphic the description is, a psycho stalker on the other hand hits a little too close to home for comfort. The basic plot is very simple though it leads to a fairly complex storyline. It is basically just a magic portal in a house.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
The chapters are arranged in a non-linear timeline, helpfully signposted by the year number at the beginning of each chapter. For once the non-linear timeline makes complete sense. Even though it zigzags and is quite twisty Lauren Beukes quite cleverly organized it in such a way that it is easy to follow and also make the narrative very compelling, the timeline is even sequential in narrative terms.
Nevertheless Beukes did a great job of ensuring that the jumbled up timeline does not collapse from some logical error. Here is a chart that explains how time travel works in The Shining Girls. In spite of the very compelling narrative where not a single page of the book is boring I do have one main reservation about this book.
In several chapters Lauren Beukes introduce us to strong, smart, likeable, talented women only to kill them off at the end of the chapter. Worse still, the same process occurs several times in the book making the storyline a little repetitious and frustrating. Having said that the narrative never bogs down, which is a testament to Ms. One girl of course survives, Kirby the protagonist. Now, before you complain about spoilers can you imagine a storyline where every single girl is killed off and Harper the psycho is triumphant at the end of the book?
That kind of ending would never fly, especially in a New York Times bestseller like this one. Still, Harper does have things entirely his way for more than half the book and it is a little frustrating as Beukes has done too good a job of making him loathsome. At the end of the day The Shining Girls is a very good, compelling read, my above mentioned gripes notwithstanding.
I have a lot of time for Ms. Beukes' writing style, characterization and story ideas, her other books Zoo City , Broken Monsters etc. A very solid 4 stars then. View all 4 comments. He should be grateful. It's because he is forced to leave that he finds the House. It is because he took the coat that he has the key. He visits the girls when they are children, takes mementos from them and tells them he'll be back for them when it's time. When that time comes, he leaves their bodies with a new memento, one taken from a different Shining Girl.
His goal is to kill them all, al 'Everything happens for a reason. His goal is to kill them all, all who Shine, and his mission is complete. Except one survived. And now she's the one looking for him. The writing style is extremely explicit. The murders are terribly graphic and incredibly detailed so if you can't stomach 'Dexter' you're definitely not going to be able to manage this one.
I have quite the stomach for gruesome tales but even this one came close to pushing my boundaries. Added to the gruesome details is the heartbreaking bits. There's this one scene in particular where one of the women is trying to stop the killer and in the process is telling him about her kids and how she has to be there for them because they're going to be waking up soon I'm not much of a softie for sad times but even that got to me pretty bad.
Plus, I think it should be mentioned there's also a gruesome scene involving a dog that may or may not have caused a tear or two. Life After Life isn't technically time-travel but the transitions through time are quite similar, also both novels lack the scientific backing to support the time-traveling, it's either believable or it's not. Both novels had similar writing styles with bouncing back and forth to different times.
It shouldn't make sense and it should be terribly confusing and hard to follow but somehow it manages to make complete and utter sense. Lauren Beukes writes with such confidence though that it really leaves no room for questioning. I never had a doubt. That jolt of recognition when he walks into someplace he's meant to be. He knows it when he sees the tokens that match the ones in the room.
It is a game. It's a destiny he's writing for them. Inevitably, they're waiting for him. I finished it late one night and ended up unable to fall asleep because I simply could not stop thinking about it. There were a few questions that went unanswered that I wish had been but my overall opinion of the book remained bright and shiny.
Please do not click if you have any intention of reading this! In the end, he ended up coming back to her after discovering that he didn't finish the job. The fact that all her researching seemingly amounted to nothing was bothersome. It made me wonder if his other crimes went unsolved or if after being introduced to the House if it made Kirby re-question everything.
She saw the Room and saw the names of the other girls so in my mind I'd like to think that even though it wouldn't have been easily proven at the very least she figured it out in the end. Considering the ending was slightly left open to interpretation, that's just my interpretation. Each girls name was in Harper's handwriting on the walls, it just made me wonder if the Room came together all at once or if it was pieced together over time as he found each of his Shining Girls.
It's a story possessing such vehemence you practically need a good, strong drink to aid you through it. In honor of the drink the House never failed to provide I recommend a whisky straight-up, no ice. With a plethora of reviews having appeared already and a good amount of pre-publication publicity hype, I was both keen and intensely curious about this foray into crime from Lauren Beukes, author of the excellent Zoo City and Moxyland.
With a clever and quite unique premise The Shining Girls is something really quite different in crime fiction fare, but I almost fell at the first hurdle I must admit. Stupidly I read the first 50 pages or so in small chunks, racing to finish another book at the s With a plethora of reviews having appeared already and a good amount of pre-publication publicity hype, I was both keen and intensely curious about this foray into crime from Lauren Beukes, author of the excellent Zoo City and Moxyland. Stupidly I read the first 50 pages or so in small chunks, racing to finish another book at the same time, so initially I was quite discombobulated by the changing timelines and was quickly losing track of what I had read.
So…I started again, reading a larger block which worked so much better and causing me to engage much more with flow of the story and making the different timelines infinitely clearer. Beukes transports us through the culturally and socially different periods of American history with ease, demonstrating her breadth of research to make each period perfect in detail and atmosphere.
From the shanty towns born out of the Depression era and through the ensuing decades, the reader is instantly fixed in a time and place familiar through the smallest details, as Curtis travels back and forth through time attacking his female victims. I actually really liked the character of Curtis- serial killing psychopath that he is- and the exploration of the contrasting demons within his character. There were moments that you felt he was on the verge of desisting in his crimes, but the strength of his compulsion for killing is ultimately too strong to resist.
Kirby is again a compelling character with a wonderful balance of sassiness and a quiet vulnerability at play in her character. Her relationship with Dan, her mentor as an intern at a Chicago newspaper, is deftly handled, with their differences in character and age defining their stumbling but heart warming relationship. I would say that I do tend to shy away from crime fiction that dips its toe in the realm of the fantastical, but I genuinely enjoyed this intriguing meld of crime and time travel, with the historical detail a major component of my ultimate enjoyment of the book.
A different read for me, but one that I would definitely recommend. While fleeing the law in Depression era Chicago, Harper Curtis stumbles upon the key to a derelict house with magical properties. Despite its outward appearance, the inside of the house is one of grandeur well, except for the dead body in the hallway, but real estate being what it is during the Depression, one can't be too picky. There's a stash of cash and a haphazard collection of kitschy objects from different time periods, but that's not the only secret hidden by this house--it is also a p While fleeing the law in Depression era Chicago, Harper Curtis stumbles upon the key to a derelict house with magical properties.
There's a stash of cash and a haphazard collection of kitschy objects from different time periods, but that's not the only secret hidden by this house--it is also a portal to the past and the future. As Harper explores the house, it speaks to him and it becomes clear that he's been drawn here for a purpose.
He must seek out "The Shining Girls," women from different times and different walks of life who must die by his knife. So, serial killer stories aren't normally my thing. I'm not particularly intrigued by how a psychopath's mind works, never really interested in his methods and his madness, and I find the whodunit aspect of most of these novels tiresome. The promise of a serial killer who could travel through time and disappear without a trace?
Now that is certainly something that I've never read before and it appealed to the part of me that enjoys science fiction. I thought there might be something new and inventive here--something that might help it rise above others of its ilk. However, it proved to be disappointingly, well, average. Harper Curtis is a casebook psychopath, complete with a childhood history of torturing animals and an inability to empathize with others. In terms of character, there's very little to distinguish him from other literary serial killers--he's fairly bland in comparison to, say, a Hannibal Lecter.
Harper's only distinction is provided by the house itself and, unfortunately, the house only serves as a vehicle for Harper. An inventive premise, to be sure, but it's ultimately as riveting as knowing the make and model of the vehicle a killer might use to get from one place to another. Its origin is never explained and its role in the events that transpire is never really clear. The hunt for Harper is led by the only woman to have survived his brutal attack, Kirby Mazrachi.
Kirby is an appealing and interesting character. She's strong, quirky, and hellbent on finding the man who did this to her. As a means of doing so, she becomes an intern for a former criminal reporter, Dan Velasquez, at the Chicago Sun-Times. While he's now on the sports beat, Kirby hopes that she can convince him to help her gain access to files and reports that might help her track down the man who left her for dead.
Kirby's investigations seem a little slapdash, moved along by heaping dollops of happenstance and coincidence that fall too neatly into place. I loved Kirby's headstrong nature, but to all those who compare this novel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo I must point out that a few punk rock t-shirts and a nose ring do not a Lisbeth Salander make.
As it weaves back and forth through time, the novel alternates its chapters between Harper, Kirby, Harper's other victims whose stories, while poignant, aren't as fleshed out as I would have liked them to be , and a few minor characters. The chapters read quickly, but all of the back and forth through time caused it to lose some momentum and suspense for me. By the time the denouement occurs, it is, despite all the weirdness that leads up to it, fairly average and not much different from the resolution one might expect in a more traditional serial killer narrative.
There's no doubt that Lauren Beukes has an interesting idea behind The Shining Girls , but it never really delivered for me. Her writing is serviceable and occasionally finds moments of beauty, profundity, or wit; I particularly enjoyed the chapters focusing on Dan, a middle-aged man who knows he's falling for the much younger and damaged Kirby. Beukes hit the right note of guilt, longing, and restraint in his internal monologues.
Despite its strong female protagonist and its creativity, I can only say that I liked the book but never truly fell in love. Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder View all 24 comments.
Apr 19, TheBookSmugglers rated it it was ok Shelves: disappointing , strangely-compelling , thriller , crime , time-travel. Original review posted on The Book Smugglers Lauren Beukes has been on my radar for a while but I never felt inclined to pick her books until l The Shining Girls came along with its promising conceit: Science Fiction meets Thriller in a story featuring a time-travelling serial killer and his one surviving victim looking for revenge.
In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis walks into The House to find a dead body in the hallway and a room full of mementos from dead girls. Their murders, actions he Original review posted on The Book Smugglers Lauren Beukes has been on my radar for a while but I never felt inclined to pick her books until l The Shining Girls came along with its promising conceit: Science Fiction meets Thriller in a story featuring a time-travelling serial killer and his one surviving victim looking for revenge. Their murders, actions he has yet to commit.
But then in , one of his victims — Kirby Mazrachi — miraculously survives his savage attack and a few years later becomes an investigative journalist looking for clues about her attack which she suspects was not random. Perhaps in that awkward moment in which I realised that the time travel here was nothing but gimmick. I am perhaps being slightly unfair with this snap judgement. One could consider the time travel element and the endless loop that Harper and Kirby seem to be stuck on to be essential to the story and to work as a metaphor for the inevitability of his psychopath tendencies to kill women.
He has no recollection of doing it. One of these things must be true. But is he a slave to his own desires and influence the House or does the House influence him? In fairness, I am not sure how much the story cares to answer this either and this undoubtedly adds to the horror of it all. As I write this review, it is becoming clear to me how much this bothered me though.
I am not averse to elements of Fantasy in Science Fiction nor does it escape me the irony of calling time travel, science. This is obviously something that will affect readers differently.