The Shining Girls
By Lauren Beukes
First Published: 2013
Cover Design by Keith Hayes
Review © 2014 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Crime Thriller, Science Fiction, Time Travel
The Shining Girls is a thriller from Lauren Beukes about a serial killer who has stumbled onto a strange house that gives him the ability to travel through time. This allows him to seek out young girls to be his victims and then easily come back years later when the girls have become young adults to torture and kill them. With the ability to then leap back through time, he seems to be untraceable. However, one young woman named Kirby manages to survive his attempt at murder and she is doggedly determined to track down her attacker even if it means dealing with the impossible.
This novel starts off a little slow as we learn about a psychopath, his obsessions, and his victims. We also get a few glimpses of Kirby as a kid, youth, and then attack survivor. Then, Kirby becomes an intern at a newspaper and starts doing some serious investigative work which yields some surprising results and mysteries. Soon the tension mounts as Kirby starts making real progress with the potential to stop the next murder or become the next victim. The tension increases right up to a thriller of an ending.
The character development in The Shining Girls is extremely well done. Kirby is a very spunky protagonist who didn’t have an easy childhood and has survived a horrific attack. She is far from perfect but her determination, resourcefulness, and sense of humor make her very likable. The serial killer is clearly a psychopath who has a deep and twisted obsession with no sense of empathy towards others. The backgrounds of all the victims are described in detail and they appear to be selected as victims because they stand out from the crowd as being especially strong or motivated women. This makes their senseless murders all the more affecting.
The main weakness of The Shining Girls is the time travel which seems to simply be a device to enable a unique serial killer plot. There is no explanation of why the house is able to travel through time and how the killer is able to control the times to which the house travels. On the other hand, the time travel aspect does make for a unique and interesting cat and mouse game between Kirby and the killer. Another criticism is that there seemed to be too many torture/murder scenes which created a sometimes depressing atmosphere, and this is from a reader who often enjoys novels with excessive violence as long as it’s not all violence of the more depressing sorts.
The The Shining Girls is not recommended as a science fiction novel but it is recommended for anyone who is looking for a thriller about a serial killer with a major twist.