Tag Archives: mystery

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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Dark Places

20131205-143251.jpgAfter my incident with Sharp Objects earlier this week, I very carefully checked the title of Gillian Flynn’s last novel.
Dark Places didn’t seem to present too many issues, so I ploughed on.

Libby Day, survivor of the Day massacre 24 years ago, is a 37 year old woman still trying to deal with the scars left by the brutal murder of her mother and two sisters, for which her brother has spent the last 24 years in jail.
Realising that she’s fresh out of money, she accepts an offer to appear at a ‘Kill Club’ convention, where all sorts of disturbing questions are raised about the murders and whether or not her brother was actually responsible for them.

Dark Places is told in alternating chapters, with Libby narrating the odd numbers, and her brother Ben and mother narrating the even chapters. The story of the day of the murders unfolds for the reader as Libby learns more about what happened on that awful night, and begins to come to terms with what happened.

I really enjoyed Dark Places. I thought it was better than Sharp Objects, but not as good as Gone Girl, which means that, as far as I’m concerned, Flynn is only improving, so I look forward to her fourth novel with anticipation.
While the alternating narratives might be a little jarring to some, it’s a style which works well for me, and clearly for Flynn, as she kept it up in Gone Girl.

I ripped through this book in a matter of days, and didn’t have any of the horrendous struggles I did with Sharp Objects. Probably because it didn’t deal with self harm I enjoyed it much more.
It was dark, and unpredictable at times, and presented a host of mostly unlikeable characters, including Libby herself. There were one or two twists I didn’t quite predict, which is always a nice sensation, and overall I really enjoyed this book.

FOUR STARS
****

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Gone Girl

gone-girlAwh man. Awh man. THIS BOOK.

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

I was recommended this book a few weeks ago by Dave. He knows I read a lot, although I’m sure he despairs of the majority of awful YA fiction I read, but generally I’ll take any recommendation from him quite seriously. Except the Time Traveller’s Wife. THAT BOOK. I have many ranty feelings about it. That’s a post for another day.

Anyways. Gone Girl.
Amy and Nick are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. It’s the morning of. Pancakes are made. Loving greetings exchanged. Presents are being wrapped, dinner reservations made, and when Nick comes home from work, he finds Amy… not there.

As the police investigate, it becomes clear that Nick is hiding something – lying, evading questions, acting inappropriately and certainly marital relations were at an all time low. Interspersed with excerpts from his missing wife’s diary, it becomes clear that things are not how they seem. But is he a killer?

Well, this is the question which the book throws at you. But it’s not the only question. There are approximately a million more. And then some more after that. And the book flies through twists and turns and punches and holds nothing back so that reading it is an exercise in containing your shouted reactions, because the people on the train would look at you funny.

The best word I can come up with to describe this book is twisty. It’s dark, and it’s twisted, and the story is twisted, and the plot flies through a myriad of twists until you don’t know what’s up and what’s down and what’s true and what’s false any more.

It is incredible. It is a masterpiece. I’ve already gotten Flynn’s other two novels, and I’m hoping they’re just as good.

FIVE STARS. MAYBE EVEN SIX.
*****(*)

Thoroughly recommended. You should definitely read this book.
Also, I’m now re-evaluating all of my relationships, friends and family to wonder if I know them as well as I think I do. That is what this book did to me!

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Truly, Madly, Deadly

Once again, a book recommended by Sinéad, I started Truly, Madly, Deadly one night at about eleven, and finished it that morning at about three.

Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne

The tagline on this book reads ‘She thought it was an accident. She was wrong’.

Basically, Sawyer Dodd, all-around amazing girl with the all-around amazing boyfriend, has suffered a tragic loss. Her all-star boyfriend Kevin has just been killed in a single car drink-driving accident.

Devastated by the loss, naturally, she can’t help but feel a little relieved because, you see, Kevin was not as wholesome as he appeared.
But when a note appears in Sawyer’s locker with a newspaper clipping and the message ‘you’re welcome’, well. That’s when things get spooky.

Because, you see, someone is now following Sawyer’s movements, and it seems she can do nothing without being seen. And when more inexplicable ‘things’ start happening, paranoia naturally sets in.

Is it the lonely guy? The police officer? The principal? The friendly transfer student?

Sawyer doesn’t know. And neither do we. But I sure enjoyed finding out. This book crashed through high-octane stalking and wound up in a thrilling finish that left me a little shell-shocked and thoroughly satisfied.

Of course, with mysteries like this, you can’t give too much away, so I’ll just say read it. It’s definitely worth the time.

I’m sure I had some complaints, but I can’t remember them right now.
I’ll give it four stars, anyways.
****

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