The Shining Girls

The Shining Girls - Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!Originality is something that should be noticed and rewarded. When it seems like every idea has been recycled, redone, or revamped to try and tempt it into a new shape, the few books that try for something truly new stand out. That ingenuity is one of the reasons behind the hype and hoopla building behind Beukes' newest novel, The Shining Girls. The other is this: a time-traveling serial killer. I didn't really need to hear anything after that - I was hooked on the synopsis alone. Happily for me, Lauren Beukes delivers with this mashup of genres. The Shining Girls is fairly straightforward story, told in unadorned prose. It's an enterprising mix of several genres, but it works -- all to the credit of the author's talent. Beukes dispenses her tale in a third person narration, sharing out narration amongst several disparate POVS. There is Harper Curtis, the killer, Kirby the girl who lived, Dan Velazquez, a washed up homicide reporter, and Mal, a streetkid who sees more than others want. Some POVs are stronger than others (twisted as he is, Harper's chapters are easily the most engrossing), but all add something to the story of the shining girls. I found Mal's additions the most ill-fitting, but even he has a bigger role to play than immediately apparent. There's no explanation, technologically or otherwise, for how/why Harper can do what he does. It just is. That's it. There is a magical House that allows Harper to go sometime else, in order to target his victims. He closes "the circle" and jaunts back and forth, from the depths of the Depression-era Chicago to the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Either the reader can buy into the premise of a time-traveling house or you can't. Suspension of disbelief is key to enjoying this tale. If you go looking for concrete answers or why, you'll be disappointed. Beukes focuses tightly on the plot, and the characters to a lesser degree. The plot holds up as long as you can accept the otherwordlyness of the plot devices.Despite its good aspects, there are issues within The Shining Girls. A large portion of the plot, i.e. Kirby's major addition the story, ends up... less important than the time spent developing it would have you think. And for a novel centered on an unhinged time-traveling serial killer there is a surprising lack of suspense. Partly derived from knowing ahead of time which girls are doomed takes away some of the tension, but there is a lack in Beukes' depiction. That isn't to say the murder scenes aren't horrifying (and horrifyingly graphic) - they can be and often are. There are many horrible things in this novel, and reading them from Curtis's POV can be a chilling experience. However, the dearth of any real atmosphere around his actions is a big miss.If a time-traveling serial killer piques your interest, The Shining Girls is definitely worth a read. A cut-and-dried style works well for Beukes' obvious talents and for crafting a uniquely appealing story. If a plot-driven thriller novel, with slight sci-fi elements and with fairly well-realized characters is your thing, this also is a book for you. Be warned: when I say there are some hard scenes to read, I mean it. This book isn't afraid to rack up a body count, and get gory. All that said, this is a taut thriller with an interesting hook. It's unlike anything else I've read and that, combined with Harper Curtis's maniacal agenda, will make it memorable long into the future.