When Harper enters the house, he knows that he is exactly where fate intended him to be. The items in the upstairs room call to him and take him to visit the shining girls so he can extinguish their lights before they can make an impact on the world. Kirby is one of those shining girls but, when she survives Harper’s attack, a new chain of events is set in motion. Crossing between times and passing through many lives, Kirby and Harper circle closer towards a final confrontation where anything could happen.
‘The Shining Girls’ by Lauren Beukes blends crime thriller and fantasy genres to give the reader an interesting reading experience. I’m a fan of both genres and, having been disappointed by cross-overs in the past, was pleasantly surprised at how well they came together in ‘The Shining Girls’ .
The serial killer, Harper, is delightfully sociopathic. There’s no hint of niceness and troubled pasts and extenuating circumstances here, just a nasty man who enjoys hurting people. I do love having a good villain, someone who is thoroughly unlikeable and Harper really does tick all the boxes.
Kirby is, I suppose, the heroine figure but she is far from heroic for much of the book. Lying and cheating to get what she wants, Kirby is obsessed with finding the man who attacked and left her for dead. She might be focused and determined but she can be pretty mean to those who get in her way. Still, she is a fighter and it’s quite easy to root for her, particularly up against such an unpleasant man as Harper. At the same time, it is hard not to feel sorry for those she involves in her risky investigations, particularly the journalist, Dan, who tries so hard to help her out.
It isn’t too difficult to figure out how the story ends, but the way in which Beukes takes us there is always engrossing. There are lots of twists and turns and plenty of cameos from the titular shining girls. I would perhaps have liked to see more of some of these girls as they appeared only fleetingly for the most part. Further detail and more time spent with one or two of them might have increased the impact of some of the killings but this is a minor detail.
On some of the other details, Lauren Beukes really impressed me. I was particularly admiring of the way in which the story was concluded with so many tangled and twisted strands brought beautifully together to a really complete conclusion. Very satisfying!
‘The Shining Girls’ was a good blend of crime thriller and time travel fantasy and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys either genre. It was an engaging read and I’m looking forward to picking up some of Beukes’ other books in the future.
(pub: Harper Collins. 416 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-00746-458-6)