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The Shining Girls: A Novel Paperback – January 14, 2014
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Harper Curtis isn’t your run-of-the-mill serial killer. He gets to time travel from the 1920s through the 1980s, killing girls in different decades, all to satisfy a bloodthirsty Chicago bungalow. Yes, you read that correctly: the house makes him do it. In this genre-bending novel, Beukes never explains the origins of this evil house or how it manages to transport Harper from year to year. All we know is that Harper is compelled to track down and murder specific “shining girls” in gruesome ways (usually evisceration), and he gets away with it since he can escape across time. Until he leaves Kirby Mazrachi behind in 1989, that is. Kirby miraculously recovers from the vicious attack and is determined to track down her assailant, even if the police consider it a closed case. She enlists the help of Dan, a reporter at the Sun-Times, and they slowly uncover odd clues left behind in a dozen unsolved murder cases; it turns out Harper has been leaving behind items from the future. Not for all tastes, but fans of urban fantasy may be interested in this clever and detailed supernatural thriller. --Rebecca Vnuk --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Intriguing...Beukes deals with slightly surreal things in very real ways. I'm all over it." -- Gillian Flynn, O magazine
"A grisly crime thriller meets sci-fi action meets historical fiction in a wildly inventive summer page-turner." --Entertainment Weekly
"One of the scariest and best-written thrillers of the year, not to mention the most memorable portrait of a serial killer since Henry H. Holmes in....Erik Larson's 2003 nonfiction bestseller The Devil in the White City." --Chicago Sun-Times
"A triumph ... [T]he smart and spunky Kirby Mizrachi is as exciting to follow as any in recent genre fiction ... [E]ach chapter in which [Harper] appears holds a reader's attention, especially the sharply described murder scenes - some of which read as much like starkly rendered battlefield deaths out of Homer as forensic reconstructions of terrible crimes ... This book means business." --NPR.org
"[Beukes is] so profusely talented - capable of wit, darkness, and emotion on a single page - that a blockbuster seems inevitable....The Shining Girls marks her arrival as a major writer of popular fiction." --USA Today
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Top customer reviews
Too much of a success. I found myself getting caught up in the back stories of the victims and enjoying them way more then the major plot. Every time a cool new character is introduced she is gruesomely killed. I feel like, backstory or not, Beukes is still giving the people what they want: extreme depictions of violence against women. Can it really be an empowering exercise if at the end of the day she's still ending her book with a big ol' lady-body count?
In fact, I feel like she defeats her own purpose in other ways as well because the POV of the book is so detached and the reader is forced to spend so much time with the super gross killer (even while he's doing mundane stuff) that I felt myself become a little numb to the horror of it all.
Ultimately, I came away from this book feeling like good research and interesting ideas didn't fully bring this all together in a satisfying way. I do think it's worth reading, if only for the interesting female characters that Beukes creates but, if you are anything like me, you will probably come away wishing they had been the focus instead of the cannon fodder.
I think, with the time travel element, and the sentient house element, I mistook it for a work of speculative fiction. It's not. It's a crime a book. And apart from the time travel, there are no mystical elements, it's just one awful man doing awful, awful things. As revolting as he was, the murderer was probably the most interesting character, because Kirby and Dan felt like tired stereotypes. I didn't like anyone in this book, everyone was damaged and uninviting. I think I felt a lot of revulsion and pity while reading this book. One of the other reviews commented that the other Shining Girls were more interesting, and I'm inclined to agree. Margot was fascinating, for the half chapter we got to spend with her.
The worst thing about this book was the feeling of there being no point to my reading it. I persevered because I wanted to know if there was some twist. Some revelation. Something to pull it all together and make me go "Oh yes! I see! How poetic! How incredible!". Something to explain what time travel had to do with anything in this crime novel. But...there wasn't. It was brutal, gory, and a harrowing read, but at the end of it, I didn't get any emotional pay off. There was no reward, or resolution, or anything that justified the emotional energy that this book took from me. I was just glad it was over.
As a crime novel, it's most likely what the fans of the genre expect. For anyone else, I'd recommend caution. It's an intense read for a not-very-satisfying (or even interesting) resolution at the end.