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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel novel!
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...
Published 8 months ago by Plucked Highbrow

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A page-turning thriller, but doesn't do justice to the "time travelling serial killer" premise
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...
Published 10 months ago by Georgiana89


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A page-turning thriller, but doesn't do justice to the "time travelling serial killer" premise, 7 Oct 2013
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This review is from: The Shining Girls (Kindle Edition)
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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and Confusing, 21 Sep 2013
This review is from: The Shining Girls (Hardcover)
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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel novel!, 24 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Shining Girls (Paperback)
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting premise, very poorly executed, 26 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Shining Girls (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great premise, but lacking something, 3 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Shining Girls (Paperback)
The premise of The Shining Girls is brilliantly original – a serial killer who travels through time, being hunted by one of his surviving victims. Whilst a good, fast read, it doesn’t quite live up to its promise.

The mechanics of the time travel is not really explained, or even questioned by the killer himself. He just finds a house where the door opens onto different periods of time, where he finds a different victim (a girl with a certain, undefined “shine” about her) each time.

I actually find it quite refreshing that the time-travel element was never explained, as it gave the novel a creepy, dream-like sense of unreality. I also loved the characters of all the “shining girls” (with one exception) who became Harper’s victims – although we only met each of these briefly, they were all really interesting characters, so their deaths mattered.

Unfortunately, the exception to this is the protagonist of the story, Kirby. Whilst she’s not unlikeable, she just doesn’t seem realistic. She’s feisty, confident, driven – all great attributes for a leading character, but not ones I would usually associate with a young woman who has been brutally attacked and left for dead a couple of years previously. Personally, I would have liked her to show a bit more vulnerability to make her seem more real. Another reviewer has said they would have preferred any one of the other victims to be the protagonist, and I have to say I agree.

Still, I was torn between whether to give this 3 or 4 stars, as I did enjoy it whilst reading it, it just wasn’t particularly satisfying afterwards.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Crime Traveller's Life, 15 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Shining Girls (Hardcover)
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Confusing, 20 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Shining Girls (Paperback)
I was very disappointed with this book.

I found the time line very confusing and kept having to re-read passages. I agree that it was not made clear on the cover that the serial killer was also a time traveller, so was very confused earlier on.

I finished it but it was only through sheer will and determination.

Would not recommend
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Falls short of the promotional blurb, 17 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Shining Girls (Paperback)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shines so bright!, 2 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Shining Girls (Kindle Edition)
A fantastic twisting story, with great real characters, and really different to most run of the mill thrillers. I read through this in just 2 days, I was so hooked! But does need to be concentrated on, due to the time travelling narrative. Brilliant!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fast and Punchy, 4 Nov 2013
This review is from: The Shining Girls (Kindle Edition)
Overall plot is very dark - it's about a serial killer & there's plenty of gore. But he's also time-travelling, which allows the writer to use Chicago from the 30s to the 90s as a back-drop. I really like the way she highlighted a whole load of social issues through the choice of victims, without it being heavy-handed, and her attempt to show the effects of violent murders on the people left behind.

Showing that emotional impact was somewhat limited by the style of the book: the chapters are often very short, snatches of action in different times. But I liked that, and felt it kept the plot moving, and it meant the devastation experienced by the families and friends wasn't overwhelming, or mawkishly sentimental. In fact, it's perhaps only something that sinks in when you've finished the book and the details come back to you as you're mulling it over.

I also liked the use of names/dates for each chapter to give the reader a handle on how it all fit together. That might have been confusing because it's not told chronologically, but I found it fairly easy to keep track of once I realised Kirkby's story is mostly told in order with a flashback/ fast forward or two, whilst Harper's story is told in the order he experiences it, but he's jumping between times to commit the murders. And the chapter titles help keep track.

All in all, a good read.
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The Shining Girls
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (Paperback - 29 Aug 2013)
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