In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens onto other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. He stalks them through their lives across different eras until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, surveys and starts hunting him back.
Working with an ex-homicide reporter who is falling for her, Kirby has to unravel an impossible mystery.
The Shining Girls is a masterful twist on the classic serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing woman in pursuit of a deadly criminal.
I got an arc of The Shining Girls on Wednesday at BEA and immediately knew that it was the next book I was going to read. It was sold to us as "time traveling serial killer" or "Silence of the Lambs as written by Margaret Atwood." There was no question: this book would be amazing.
Did it live up to my expectations? Well, yeah, pretty much. I couldn't put it down for the next two days. I was drawn in by the characters and the narrative style. Each chapter skips around in point of view and time, letting you piece together what is going on in a way that is not obvious but not confusing, either.
Our heroine, Kirby Mazrachi, is just the right mix up of spunky and messed up, making mistakes but ultimately taking control of her life. With the time traveling aspect, as well, we get to see Kirby as a child and as an adult, showing how not only the attack but the aftermath and just her mother in general shapes the person that she becomes. This book has been compared to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I find Kirby waaaaaaay more likable than Lisbeth.
I also enjoy what we get to see of Harper, our serial killer. Although we mostly see him as he goes about his "work," there are brief glances back that give us hints as to why he is the way he is. There's also the life he lives in 1931, his home era and the way he fights against the house and ultimately succumbs to it. Is he an awful man? Yes, definitely. But he's not a one-dimensional character and that makes him interesting.
The different titular 'shining girls' are also a super interesting part of the narrative. Each is immensely different: different races, time periods, ages, creeds. It's only their potential to be amazing that makes them stand out. While each encounter was invariably sad, I did enjoy getting to know, however briefly, these characters. I especially liked Alice. I could have easily read a book on her alone. That says something about Beukes's ability to create characters: even the ones with two chapters stand out.
The chapters are short which makes this book a rather quick read, helped along by the fact that it's hard to put down. The book races towards the inevitable showdown, answering its own questions along the way. The post-script was a very nice touch, I thought. I'm now interested in reading more from Beukes as I've heard her other books are quite good as well. I'll search those out and you pick this up, okay?
The Shining Girls comes out June 4th (tomorrow!) from Mulholland Books.