The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes: a Review

sgZAA killer who shouldn’t exist.
A girl who shouldn’t have lived.
A thriller which breaks all the boundaries.
CHICAGO, 1931. Harper is a man out of time – yet with all the time on the world to stalk and kill his ‘shining girls’. The objects he lays by their violated bodies are more than just clues: they are the glittering threads of his obsession, a web of sick satisfaction glowing through the years.
But these things have to be right. And if a girl lived to tell the tale, well, that would have to be fixed.
CHICAGO, 1992. Kirby knows there’s something strange about the man who nearly killed her – aside from being a violent psychopath. Rejected by those who should help her, she searches for others, the girls who didn’t make it.
What Kirby finds is … impossible. Murders scattered across the decades, accompanied by totally contradictory evidence. But for a girl who should be dead, impossible doesn’t mean it didn’t happen …

This is going to be a difficult review to write, not because I hated The Shining Girls but because I loved it and trying to articulate how and why I loved it is going to be difficult!
The opening chapter – Kirby and Harper’s first meeting is one of the creepiest things I have read in a long time, and sets the tone of the novel perfectly!
The main characters Harper and Kirby are phenomenal contrasts. Harper a monster from the 1930’s, his life shaped by lifelong sociopathy, poverty, war and violence ranged against Kirby a free-spirited, independent woman of the ‘90’s. Two implacable characters hunting each other through Chicago and time, hurtling towards a confrontation that only one will survive.
Time travel, due to its often non-linear nature can make a story difficult to follow but Lauren handles the time stream like a pro. The story bounces from the 1930’s to the 1990’s and snakes through the intervening decades as Harper hunts his prey we learn more about him and the lives of the women he has targeted.
Even knowing in advance what happened to Kirby when Harper tracked her down does not make it easier to read when their trails intersect, it reads as a macabre meeting of lovers with brutality and profanity replacing tenderness and sweet nothings
At its heart, The Shining Girls is not about a serial killer although he is a large part of the story; it is a novel about women, more specifically it is about violence and discrimination, and, in jumps between the decades of the 20th century it is about how the roles of women in society change and evolve.
The Shining Girls has a breathless, multi-layered narrative that kept me guessing, and even towards the end when I thought I had sussed it out I turned out to be completely wrong. It is the type of book that grips you, demanding your attention and then rewards you with a thrilling story and ideas that stay with you long after you have closed the covers.
If I had to describe The Shining Girls in one sentence it would be:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Doctor Who (if the Doctor were a time-travelling psychopath killing his companions rather than travelling with them!)
In closing please let me say AUGH! This book is amazing! You have to buy it, read it then tell your friends to do the same! You will not regret it!

2 Thoughts on “The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes: a Review

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