The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The girl who wouldn't die, hunting a killer who shouldn't exist.

Chicago 1931. Harper Curtis, a violent drifter, stumbles on a house with a secret as shocking as his own twisted nature - it opens onto other times. He uses it to stalk his carefully chosen 'shining girls' through the decades - and cut the spark out of them. He's the perfect killer. Unstoppable. Untraceable. He thinks…

Chicago, 1992. They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Tell that to Kirby Mazrachi, whose life was shattered after a brutal attempt to murder her. Still struggling to find her attacker, her only ally is Dan, an ex-homicide reporter who covered her case and now might be falling in love with her. As Kirby investigates, she finds the other girls - the ones who didn't make it. The evidence is… impossible. But for a girl who should be dead, impossible doesn't mean it didn't happen.

Lauren Beukes's new book, The Shining Girls, can at times be a harrowing read, but because of the way it has been written you are compelled to get to the end. How it ends I am not going to spoil. The book focuses on two main characters, Kirby and Harper, who are hunted and hunter and most chapters are told from one or the other’s perspective. Although these are not the only voices you hear throughout the book.

There is a theme of destiny and predetermination that runs through the book. The fantastical aspect in this book is a house that allows Harper to move through time to kill what he calls The Shining Girls. The focus on violence against women can be grim at points as the book focuses on one man’s hatred towards women. We can ask the usual questions, does he use violence against women as a way to feel powerful? Although if I found a house that could take me to another time, I probably would find a better use for it such as a Back to the Future - betting on market futures - but that would be a different book entirely.

What are Shining Girls? My interpretation is that these are women that have the potential to help humanity forward even if it is in a way that some people could find was insignificant. Lauren Beukes has managed to give these women a voice beyond the page, where their lives are whole, they are not portrayed as victims but strong women from different circumstances who want to live. This brings us to the significance of Kirby, who is an independent streetwise kid, who is inquisitive, but also on Harper’s list. She is strong, determined and a survivor who wants the truth even if it’s unbelievable.

There are so many questions which lead you into dark places including: How does someone make the decision to kill people? Can a first kill be an accident? Does violence always escalate? Lauren Beukes has turned the gritty fantastic in a well thought out story set against the backdrop of Chicago through the ages. If you do not like realistic violence, you may not want to read this as the book is not for the faint-hearted but if you do read this you will be rewarded by being taken on a journey, where you are left guessing at the ending until the very last page!

10/10 A journey where you are left guessing until the very last page!

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