I’ve had Lauren Beukes on my radar for awhile now, and I’ve even had a copy of Zoo City since the last Humble Bundle, but I knew I had to read The Shining Girls when I heard about its time traveling serial killer.
In The Shining Girls, Harper is a disturbing, terrifying hunter from the 1930s who stumbles upon a magical house that allows him to travel forward and backward in time. He goes through time to find “shining” girls, gives them a memento from a past kill, and tells them that he’ll see them again in the future. One of his shining girls is Kirby who he meets in 1974 and later tries to kill in the 1990s. Kirby drives this story as she tries to connect murders similar to her attack to find the culprit.
I had a lot of trouble with this book. If we look at it purely as a thriller, it’s a good one, although I wanted more information about Harper to see how he turned into such a disgusting, misogynistic psychopath. We don’t get any personal history, we don’t know his family or friends, and we don’t know about what he does or did in the past. We really don’t know a damn thing about him other than he kills women, “shining” girls (though I have no idea why he thinks they’re shining), a knife being his weapon of choice. How he tracks and murders these women is very interesting and those looking for a good thriller would really enjoy this, but this book is being billed as more than a thriller. It’s being billed as a time travel, science fiction thriller.
I’m a time travel fanatic. If a description includes time travel, I can almost instantly add it to my to-read list, though not all time travel books are wins. If the time travel isn’t completely explained or if I can’t buy into it, it’s a fail.
In The Shining Girls, the house time travels for no apparent reason. Harper thinks about where he wants to go and he’s there. You have just learned all that you will learn about this house and its magic. I’m not joking. If someone else has read this and found some other tidbit that I’m missing, please let me know, because that’s all I found. Time travel is merely a gimmick, one that allows our killer to see his shining girls throughout their lives. That’s not science fiction. That’s convenience.
I didn’t hate this book, in fact I absolutely loved Kirby, a strong, courageous survivor. She’s smart, a smart ass, and a great person to lead us on this hunt in this thriller. I’m annoyed that this book is only a thriller, though, when it sounded like it’d be so much more. If you want a thriller, pick this up, but go into it only expecting to be intrigued by the serial killer and not by anything having to do with science fiction or time travel.