Saturday, March 12, 2016

Mini book review: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

In Depression Era Chicago, a not very nice man named Harper Curtis stumbles into a derelict-seeming house.  The House (for it is a House, not just a house) is different on the inside: in a room upstairs, there are trophies taken from women that Harper will kill.  The House has a listing of these "shining girls," and whenever Harper opens the front door, the House delivers him to a different time between 1929 and 1993 so he can locate these girls and snuff out their light.  Although he starts awkwardly, he quickly becomes quite good at these vicious, seemingly untraceable murders as he bounces back and forth through time.  But in 1989, Kirby Mizrachi manages to escape Harper's knife, despite her belly and throat being slashed.  And because she manages to escape, she systematically begins to track down her would-be murderer.

Time travel stories are always tough but despite a couple of passages that I had to read and re-read to figure out who was sticking what knife into whom, The Shining Girls is pretty successful.  It's very violent - the descriptions of Harper's attacks are detailed and extremely bloody - but also very convincing.  The amount of research Lauren Beukes did to create the Chicagos of the various times must have been staggering.  The characters, including all of the victims, are fleshed out and real, interesting, sympathetic; the only one who gets short shrift is Harper but he's such a horrible person that I really didn't want to get to know him better.  I recently had a rare rainy Sunday when I didn't have to do anything, so I sat down and read The Shining Girls all in one go.  If that's not a recommendation for a book, I don't know what is.

PS - I have also read Beukes's Broken Monsters and liked that too, but it's a weirder book and didn't connect with me quite so well.  Don't know why I didn't review that here.

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