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3.5 out of 5 stars
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3.5 out of 5 stars
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on 7 October 2013
As a general rule, I hate crime novels but love stories that make clever use of time travel, so I was in two minds over whether to read this book. The comparisons to Gone Girl, which I read last year and loved, finally persuaded me to give it a try.

Let me start by saying that I don't agree with that comparison at all. They are two books that involve a crime and have an unconventional narrative structure, but that's literally the only things they have in common. The things I loved about Gone Girl were the brilliantly quotable prose, the clever twist, and the unreliable narration. None of that is present here - it's a much more workmanlike novel.

That's not to say it isn't an enjoyable read. It was an pacey thriller that made me want to rush to the end and it had a well-executed sense of creepiness. My favourite parts actually had little to do with either crime or time travel. I loved the vignettes about the different girls the villain killed. The idea was that he only killed girls who had a spark about them - some combination of having a huge ambition and/or wanting to change the world. I was fascinated by their stories - the transgender fifties showgirl, the woman doing a man's job during WW2, the seventies procurer of illegal abortions. It's just a shame they all died so quickly! I actually thought the heroine was one of the weaker characters, and it was hard to see what her "shine" was meant to be. I'd rather have had one of the women listed above be the survivor who is hunting him down.

Weirdly, I enjoyed it more while I was reading it than afterwards. Once I'd put it down, I had time to think about the weaknesses. For me, the big problem was that "time travelling serial killer being pursued by escaped victim" is a truly amazing premise, and the plot just didn't quite do it justice. I'd have liked a wider spread of time periods (it spanned 1929 to 1993)but that's just personal preference. More problematic was that I didn't get quite enough sense of different times, and the killer seemed far too comfortable with it all - more scenes of him struggling to adapt to changing attitudes and technology would have been great. I like time travel when it's really mind-bending (like in the Time Traveller's Wife) and I didn't get that here. In effect, most of the plot would actually have played out similarly without the time travel element. The times where the author played with this (the ending, the body in the bin, the first meeting with Bartek, some of the use of objects) were some of my favourite parts, and I really wish they'd been developed more.

There also didn't seem to be that much rhyme or reason to how the villain had acquired a)the ability to travel through time, or b)this overwhelming urge to kill. He's a psychopath who's found a magic house, and that's pretty much all the explanation you're going to get.

In conclusion, this is worth a read if you want an unusual premise, an engaging plot, and a bit of a scare. Just don't expect Gone Girl, metaphysical mind games, or a great deal of substance.
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on 21 September 2013
I liked the idea of this book and it had some good reviews. However, I was really disappointed. I've given it 2 stars because I at least finished it - but it was hard work. Quite confusing with all the time changes, which wasn't explained very well - how, why? Many characters, none of which I cared about. Then, after toiling through it, a really rubbish ending. I turned the page thinking I was in the middle of a paragraph, but no it had ended. Perhaps the author had got as fed up as I was.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A tale written by South African author Lauren Beukes spanning some six decades and aiming to combine the two genres of crime thriller and science fiction. Having survived an attempt on her life, Kirby sets out to find the man who tried to kill her, a drifter going by the name of Harper Curtis. She becomes an intern at a Chicago newspaper and learns that Harper is not only a serial killer, but, impossibly, he seems to have been doing his killing for sixty years. That is because Harper is able to travel through time.

Just how or why Harper is able to time-travel is never fully explained, but The House has something to do with it. "The House has been waiting for him. It called him here for a purpose. The voice in his head is whispering *home*. And it feels like it, more than the wretched place he grew up in, or the series of flophouses and shacks he's moved between all his adult life." The House isn't exactly a tardis, as it doesn't physically move, but it is nevertheless the means by which the killer traverses the decades between the early 1930s and the 1990s.

The promotional blurb will have you believe that this is 'The jaw-dropping, page-turning, critically-acclaimed book of the year: a serial-killer thriller unlike any other' but my jaw remained firmly closed throughout and turning the pages was often accompanied with a sigh. It's different, to be fair, but not in a way I found particularly attractive.

It contains what for me were a lot of 'talky' chapters involving conversations that were often longer than they needed to be. In most cases, a chapter such as this would end and I would find myself no better off than I had been at the beginning of that chapter. It became a little on the predictable side when a new female character would be introduced (sometimes the chapter would be named after her), her background would be fleshed out in good detail but her life-expectancy was usually going to be very short because she was being 'prepared' (by the author) to be the killer's next victim.

I thought this story was okay but nothing better, with an undoubtedly interesting premise let down by rather ordinary writing. The Shining Girls is an unusual concept that deserves to have been more thoroughly 'executed', if you'll forgive the pun!
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It is 1931 and Harper Curtis is on the run from a mob. By chance he steals a coat, which contains a key. Then, he finds 'the House'. In this excellent novel - which contains threads from several genres, but is actually something quite unique - Harper Curtis finds the house, which the key mysteriously fits, moves through time. Although it stays firmly rooted in Chicago, it transports him from 1929 to 1993, as Harper looks for his Shining Girls. Harper thinks that the house has been waiting for him and he knows that his shining girls are there in time - waiting to die. As the novel progresses, we go backwards and forwards as Harper visits and revisits his chosen girls, always on the periphery of their life and waiting for when the time is right to kill them. However, one girl, Kirby, is attacked and survives.

During this novel we meet many characters and it can be slightly confusing, until you get into the rhythm of the novel. However, you will soon become used to the style as you follow Harper Curtis on his travels. Kirby is a damaged, but strong, young woman. She becomes an intern for a journalist, Dan, who used to work the homicide beat until he became burnt out and moved to sport. With his help, Kirby begins to look for her attacker. However, what chance is there of her discovering a criminal who moves, at will, through time? This really is a roller coaster ride of a novel - intelligent, well written, fast moving and with characters that you will care about intensely by the end of the book. I think this will be the thriller, and one of the books, of the year.
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on 28 June 2013
I was initially intrigued by the concept of a time-travelling serial killer, but my interest almost ebbed away during the first half of the story. I struggled to maintain any interest in Harper's relentless round of killings, and I was confused and frustrated, as others have also said, by the lack of information/explanation about Harper and the house that allows him to time-travel to commit his crimes. Maybe it's relevant to say that I'm not a huge fan of fantasy fiction, and therefore it's difficult for me to accept that 'this is just how it is' - I want explanations!
I almost gave up on the book at one point, but had to read it for my book club so I ploughed on. I'm glad I did because the second half, when Kirby is on the trail of her attacker, was completely different - exciting, gripping and so much more readable.
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on 8 May 2014
I don't think I opened this appreciating it was a time travel book so I was really confused for a good bit of it. Reading other reviews I don't think it sounds like it was clearly highlighted although I read it on the kindle and very rarely these days do I read the blurb. Harper Curtis is our killer, the book opens with him in the 1930s visiting one of his future victims. He calls them his shining girls and always goes back to meet them when they are children and visits again to murder them as adults in the future. The book bounces between the 1930s and the 1990s, there are a few characters and each chapter has their name at the top so you know who it is about. Kirby should be dead, she is one of the shining girls who Curtis took care of, or so he thought. A game of cat and mouse begins when he realizes she is still alive and Kirby knows, despite details not making any logical sense, that her would be killer is out there and she means to stop him.

This book took a while to get to grips with, it was interesting enough although the time and character jumps took a bit of getting used to and sorting through. Once I realized what was going on I got on a lot better with the story. Harper is driven to contact and then later, through time gaps, kill them as they are the shining girls and have to die. Anyone who gets in his way is also in peril however they are his main focus. He isn't a particularly crafty killer, barring the fact he can time travel but the murders themselves are hideously brutal and gorey.

I think the idea for this book is a really good one, I read one by Joe Hill that was a similar theme, chosen ones to die and time travel however this one needs something more. I think had there been an explanation up front of why they are chosen and everything that follows after then the book would have, for me, been much more enjoyable. I don't like when I have to come up with the hows and whys, I know some readers do, I also don't like to be left with questions and hanging. That said, the way the characters and events are linked is done well which is why the rating for this one is 3/5. I had never read her before and whilst I would try her work again, I won't be rushing out to buy them all up. I believe she has a new one coming out in July, 2014 so will keep an eye on the reviews for that one.
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on 24 November 2013
Kirby was attacked by a man and, despite horrific injuries, managed to survive. Now she is a student intern on a Chicago paper and determined to find out who attacked her. Harper is a man who was down and out but suddenly stumbles upon the key to a house. The house has secrets of its own...

I'd put off reading this book as sic-fi is my least favourite genre of reading matter and I thought this book would be too much for me. In spite of many of the reviews I decided to give this book a go and, once started, could barely put it down. For all the reasons I loathed 'The Time-travellers Wife', I love 'The Shining Girls'. This is exciting and clever but with good characters and a knowledge of Americana and Chicago that belies the nationality of the author.
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on 17 January 2014
I have just finished reading The Shining Girls which I have to admit I found very disappointing. First up I think the book cover needs to mention that the serial killer is travelling in time, which to some people, myself included, would put this in another category than the murder/thriller/hunt down/capture story I thought I was about to read. It took me time to work out t hat the serial killer was travelling in time and no explanation is really given as to why him or how or why the 1930s versus the late 80s/early 90s. Having said that, a third of the way into the book,I thought the idea was different and therefore hoped the story would be about the main character figuring out what was happening vis time travelling killer, understand the pattern/route he was taking (because it was gibberish to me) and intercept him therefore fitting together all the pieces of this complex jigsaw puzzle. But no, it did not turn out like that and as I was nearing the end of the book I realised there was not enough pages left to develop this theme. Pretty rubbish ending to a story that had more holes in it than swiss cheese.
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on 15 June 2015
Very good book. I liked the fact that there was no attempt made to explain anything! Just take it or leave it – just keep reading until some of it makes sense!. The circularity was well handled. I’ve always enjoyed reading books where there is a single consecutive timeline for one character mixed in amongst others who follow a normal consecutive timeframe. Difficult to imagine just how shocking it would be to realise you have something that had not been made yet.
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on 26 November 2013
I read this for a book club, and our almost unanimous conclusion was that we didn't really enjoy this. While the premise is interesting, the writing and execution of the story is poorly handled, which detracts enormously from the experience. It's hugely - and gratuitously - violent, and there isn't enough time given to character development for the reader to care about the victims.

It's fine as a throwaway holiday read, but I wouldn't be able to recommend it to anyone and keep a clear conscience!
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