The Shining Girls
By Lauren Beukes
(Mulholland Books, Hardcover, 9780316216852, June 2013, 384pp.)
The Short of It:
A time-traveling serial killer is not someone you want to mess with.
The Rest of It:
It’s 1974 and Kirby is outside playing with a bumblebee. A stranger with a limp approaches her and after tearing the wings off the bee with his bare hands, gives her a toy to remember him by. The toy, a small plastic horse, is something that the girl instantly takes a liking to, but this isn’t a toy she can find just anywhere because it’s from the future. Harper Curtis, time traveler, serial killer and all around creep, finds girls that “shine” and then murders them in cold blood.
The catch? He doesn’t do it when they are young, no…he comes back for them later, when they are old enough to feel the life pouring out of them. His attacks are gruesome and involve dismemberment and evisceration. Kirby is a lucky girl because she survives his first attack, but now grown-up and working as a journalist, her mission is to find the killer. Little does she know how difficult it will be to track a killer through time.
My feelings are all over the place with this one!
I’ve read books where Jack the Ripper goes back and forth through time and this book was sort of like those but without the period setting. This was more of a contemporary take and it had some high points but it had many low points as well.
I liked Kirby. She was spunky without being annoying. Her inquisitive nature and her interactions with her colleague, Dan…were often endearing and sweet. I felt that the author could have gone a little deeper with her character but overall, she was pretty well-written.
On the other hand, Harper was a bit of a disappointment. Here you have this serial killer who has the potential to be a real bad-ass but instead, he’s this wimpy, gimpy guy zipping back and forth through time. He’s not particularly interesting and his killing isn’t all that creative. I mean, if I am going to read about a serial killer I want there to be a little variety. His attacks are gory and bloody but I never really felt his “need”. He talks of the shine, that he needs it to live, but it didn’t come across as being all-consuming, you know? And the shine and what it is, isn’t fully explained. Did these girls have riveting personalities? Did they exude too much confidence? Was there something about their aura that literally made them shine in Harper’s eyes? Not sure.
Overall, I wasn’t all that impressed with the book. I think it could have been a lot stronger had there been a little bit more about Harper. More back story, less gore. Psychologically, it was lacking.
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