Book #73 – The Shining Girls

51DDOYzuh3LAround Christmas, the Shining Girls was one of those books which was plastered on posters in and around all the train stations I was going through on a daily basis, so it made it onto my to-read list.
It took me a few months to get hold of it, though, and a few more to actually get to reading it. I started it, then got distracted by other books and took several weeks to come back and actually put in the time to finish it. According to my Goodreads account, I started reading The Shining Girls on May 23, but didn’t finish it until June 27. Considering it normally takes me three to four days to read a book, that fact is telling.

The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes

THE GIRL WHO WOULDN’T DIE HUNTS THE KILLER WHO SHOULDN’T EXIST.

The future is not as loud as war, but it is relentless. It has a terrible fury all its own.

Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.
Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.
At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He’s the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.
Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth . . .

I enjoyed the Shining Girls. It’s a weird and twisty crime novel, hugely complicated by the fact that the serial killer possesses a house which allows him to time travel – but also forces him to time travel, not letting him rest until he completes the circle of killing his ‘Shining Girls’, scattered through time, with a chain of links between them. Kirby Mazrachi, together with a cranky, compelling, sports reporter Dan Velasquez, start to investigate not only her own attack, but the others which seem to be – impossibly – connected.

I had several problems, though, with this book. The first, and most obvious, to me, was that it was slow to start. As I mentioned above, I started this book, then abandoned it in favour of many other books, and only came back to it a month later when I started to feel guilty. The beginning was in no way compelling, and didn’t suck me in at all, which I find really disappointing in a book.
As well as this, I found the biggest plot device of the book – the house which opens onto different eras – to be really weak, and never properly fleshed out. I’m okay with things not being explained, as long as it’s implied that there’s solid world-building behind it. I really didn’t feel like that in this book.
And lastly, I found the characters a little grating as well, and not very believable. Kirby, understandably, is fixated on finding the guy who tried to kill her, but that’s pretty much her only character trait. Dan was really interesting, and I liked him a lot, but the central character of any murder novel, the killer, Harper, has very little going on. With a manic house and several murders strewn across years, from Depression-era Chicago to the modern-day, he should have been a complex and compelling character, but he was just a one-dimensional obsessive with a few trinkets and a limp.

For all my complaints, it was a relatively inoffensive book – while not in any way compelling, it was interesting, and I did read the whole thing, despite having abandoned it. I enjoyed the shining girls being strewn across times and places, and the intricacies of travelling between times to kill them. I did enjoy this book, it was by no means bad, but it could have been great, and I felt like it failed a little to live up to its potential.

Three Stars
***

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