Monday, July 1, 2013

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes: My Wow Book of the Year

Just so you know, I will be using profanity in this review because this novel was so disturbing on so many levels that Holy Shit! it is unforgettable.

Here's the gist of the novel:  a man, Harper, is a serial killer.  But let's not stop there.  Harper will pretty much kill anyone who looks at him wrong.  He keeps his special knife skills for the "shining girls", women who somehow have a life force that is so strong he has to kill them to make himself feel better.  Oh--and he gets excited killing them, too.

This story isn't your typical serial killer novel.  Oh no.  What kicks it up into another realm is the added bonus of time travel.  Yep.  Harper is a grown man in 1932 Chicago; one night he's fleeing a mob (cause of course he killed a man) and finds himself entering a derelict home in a dicey Chicago neighborhood.  On the outside, it looks abandoned.  But on the inside, it's a lovely, cozy home complete with a burning fireplace and a decanter of whiskey waiting on a side table.  He also finds out that in an upstairs bedroom someone has collected little "trinkets" from victims--all whom are listed in chalk on the wall.  He knows the house wants him to kill these women, and he has no problem doing just that.  When he leaves the house, he enters another time--up to 60 years in the future.  And Harper can kill without worry, since he simply slips back into the house and into another time.  All of his victims are heartbreaking parts of the story.  

Except Kirby.  She's the only one who survived.  She was attacked in 1989 and survived--barely.  I can't tell you her experience, since a lot revolves around it. Move forward to 1993, and she is a college journalism student determined to find out who attacked her and why.  She knows this man is a serial killer, but lacks the evidence to prove it.  And of course she has no idea he travels through time, and has been killing women for the past 60 years.  Freaky, right?  

Reading this novel is disturbing on many levels, but the writing is so good you can't help but keep reading it.  And then you love Kirby, cause she is a kick-ass survivor and she's pissed.  Harper is possibly the most horrible character I've read about in years and he has no redeeming characteristics.  He kills because he likes to.  No other reason.  

So how can this end?  You think I'll tell you here?  Hell no!  You must read this novel.  There are some graphic parts that will make you uncomfortable and so angry at Harper that this will fuel you through the novel.  You want Kirby to find him and punish him for all the women he's murdered through time.  Jackass. 

Read it!  It really is very very good.  I've had a friend read it, and when I talked about it in my reading group he jumped up and down and couldn't wait to share his feelings on this novel.  It will certainly move you--there's no way you can remain unemotional about this story.

Rating:  9/10 for superb story telling, a completely horrible character who makes Jack the Ripper look friendly, and a twist on the usual serial killer story.

Available in hardcover, e-book, and audio.  So you have no excuse not to read it!


  1. Hi Sue......I read this review and, alas, I'm afraid to tackle this book. Books like these really disturb me beyond belief. It does sound interesting and your wrote about it so very well.



    1. Oh Jo--it certainly creeps you out. It's not for everyone, that is for sure.

  2. I've been intrigued by this cover, but haven't read a review yet! I may have to give this one a try to satisfy my love for TV shows like Criminal Minds. Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. It really is something I normally wouldn't read, but once I started it I couldn't put it down. You will love it!

  3. I heard an NPR review of this book last week and can NOT wait to read it, especially since it comes so highly recommended from you!

    1. Oh yes! You must read it! This woman is one heck of a writer. Let me know when you read it and what you think. Definitely takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you verrrrry uncomfortable.