Ayo Onatade is an avid reader of crime and mystery fiction. She has been writing reviews, interviews and articles on the subject for the last 12 years; with an eclectic taste from historical to hardboiled, short stories and noir films
When one hears about a time travelling serial killer finding the right balance between ensuring that the storyline works and being overdramatic can be difficult. In the case of Lauren Beukes The Shining Girls, she has managed to find that balance quite well.
The Shining Girls is set in Depression era Chicago where we have Harper Curtis (the first of the two main protagonists) a drifter who is responsible for a number of murders that have taken place. He is on the run when he comes across “the House” which helps him stalk the Shining Girls through time. He initially contacts them when they are children, avails himself of a memento from each one whilst informing them that he will be back. When he does return and murders each one of them he again leaves with a memento but this time with a memento from a different Shining Girl. His aim is to kill each of the Shining Girls, but he fails in this respect and one of them survives. The survivor is Kirby Mazrachi. Against all odds, she sets out to track him down.
The Shining Girls is not for the faint-hearted, the depiction of violence is very graphic and if your tolerance level for such things is low then you are in for a rude awakening. Gruesome does not seem to cover it and those of a squeamish persuasion may find The Shining Girls stomach churning. On top of this, the author certainly knows how to tug at your heartstrings. There are parts of the story, which cannot fail to bring tears to your eyes as you are reading. However, I see this as a good thing. For an author to be able to skilfully juggle two distinct but powerful emotions within a reader shows how good a story The Shining Girls is. The time travelling element means that Curtis is able to move back and forth in between 1931 and 1993 thus enabling him to move in and out of the girl’s lives as they grow up. The characterisation and sense of place is such that as a reader you are fully immersed in the story and the characters.
The Shining Girls is gripping, spectacularly creative, and splendidly achieved but also unusual. Well written and taut this book will certainly become a classic. The Shining Girls is also a book that certainly hits the spot! Read it and enjoy.