Author: Lauren Beukes
Publication Date: 6/4/2013
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Blurb: THE GIRL WHO WOULDN'T DIE HUNTS THE KILLER WHO SHOULDN'T EXIST.
The future is not as loud as war, but it is relentless. It has a terrible fury all its own."
Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.
Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.
At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He's the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.
Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth . . .
THE SHINING GIRLS is a masterful twist on the serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing heroine in pursuit of a deadly criminal.
Reading The Shining Girls was like reading Gone Girl all over again. Here I was, expecting an entertaining genre fiction romp, and instead I got a literary, undoubtedly well-written but mostly boring novel that underutilized its exciting premise.
Sorry to say, but The Shining Girls is just not nearly as entertaining as its blurb leads you to believe. A time-traveling serial killer and the thrilling chase after him lead by his only surviving victim and her journalist friend? Give me some of that!
BUT. Eh. It would have been a better story if time travel, one of my most favorite things in science fiction, wasn't only a gimmick in this story, which is doubly sad because Lauren Beukes is such a skilled science fiction writer. I also would have been better if the mystery and thrill and suspense actually ever materialized. Basically, the whole plot concept here is an excuse to write about these "shining girls," who, in my understanding, are some special women of their own time who are unlike other, regular, women; are pioneers in what they do, so to speak. I might be wrong though. One of the killer's victims is a welder, another - a lesbian architect in a misogynistic 50s firm, and yet another - a social worker. Strong, admirable women? Yes. "Shining"? I don't really know. The shininess of Kirby, our heroine, a regular student with a messed-up family life, is especially unclear. Same applies to several other victims. Not that these girls are not interesting, they are. But why the killer is attracted to them, and why he suddenly needs to kill them, the moment he steps into the time-transporting House, is never fully explained. Time travel in this book is used only to give the author an opportunity to address some women's issues in various decades of the 20th century, and nothing particularly time-twisty ever happens. There are hardly any mind- and time-bending tricks that usually make science fiction about time travel so thrilling. Instead, the serial killer could have been murdering his victims in any period in history. It made little difference as far as the investigation is concerned. What a waste.
I heard a lot that this book will be the BIG book of the summer. It wasn't for me, but maybe it will be for others? The Shining Girls is being promoted as mashup of The Time Traveler's Wife and The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, and in this case the comparison seems apt in the way that time travel is a gimmick (as it was in the former title) and the main character is a damaged girl who finds help via a journalist (as in the latter). However, there is a bit of too much of The Wife's irrelevant time traveling and meandering pace in The Shining Girls and too little of The Girl's kick-assery and investigating for my taste.
However, I would still strongly recommend Beukes' Zoo City.