Wow. I just finished The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes after a furious two-day reading jag. Which is possibly a little misleading, because if I had any say over the matter, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t – couldn’t – have put this thriller down.
Shining Girls caught my attention because everyone in my large and extensive bookish community was raving about it, both before and after publication. I read the tagline – “The girl who wouldn’t die hunts the killer who shouldn’t exist!” – and the blurb, which mentions more about the constellation of murders, all linked by trinkets left behind by a…time-travelling serial killer? Time travel really isn’t so much my thing. Alone, the blurb might have sounded a bit gimmicky. But then there was the buzz, the rave reviews, the chatter that wouldn’t leave me alone.
So I tried the first chapter for free on my e-reader (excellent use for such things – free and convenient story sifting), and was hooked by Beukes’ clear and captivating voice. if the premise reads a little sci-fi, it certainly didn’t read that way; it read like well-crafted lit fic. The characters could have been more well-defined, sure, but each was certainly distinctive and played very nicely within the frame of the story. I never rolled my eyes (with the exception of the few times the protagonist’s mom showed up – now she is a two-dimensional story prop) or had to suspend belief. Well. Aside from the fact that the killer’s house happened to open up onto other whens and wheres. Luckily for me, travellin’ stories – rabbit-hole tumbles – are my genre kryptonite when they’re well-executed, which this absolutely was.
Shining Girls is a must-read for the summer. It’s a smart, fresh take on a well-worn crime drama told in a narrative voice that might have a whiff of Stephen King a la Black House, populated with characters nuanced in Gillian Flynn’s sarcastic charm, but is a story undeniably Beukes’s own. 4 of 5 stars.