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3.5 out of 5 stars
The Shining Girls
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 22 February 2014
'The Shining Girls' written by Lauren Beukes is an interestingly conceived thriller with science fiction premise of the killer who travels through time, but at the end from the hunter he will become the prey.

Harper Curtis is a serial killer, who back in Chicago 1931 due to strange house receives an opportunity to travel through the time. He will use this unusual gift in an unexpected way, searching for rare girls with some special qualities, or as he sees them, the girls that are shining, bright young females scattered across the 20th century full of spark, until he turns off the light of their lives leaving clues from different times to provoke those who investigate his crimes.

And while Harper travels through the time killing girls one by one, feeling unstoppable, one of his victims, girl named Kirby Mazrachi, will survive and will seek revenge.
Determined to bring her almost-killer to justice, Kirby will join the Chicago Sun-Times and start working with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who worked on her case. They two will slowly gather the pieces of puzzle, while amazing truth about the killer origins and his motives are becoming clearer...

Lauren Beukes with her novel `The Shining Girls' made a combination of different genres; reader can find thriller,mystery and SF which in itself sounds interesting, but it seems that in any of those genres the author doesn't feel fully at home, therefore with none of the them does not manage to fully intrigue reader.

The author's decision not to explain how was possible for main villain to travel through time is rather questionable, except presenting this strange house in the Chicago in the 1930s as a fact. In my opinion the novel would definitely get new quality level if the decision was different or at least if some more details about house were provided. Generally, it is a bit questionable why the author even used the theme of time travel - did she just liked the premise of the elusive killer who escapes through time, though did not know how to explain what allows his escape?

On the other hand, a motive of strange house is something that reminds of Stephen King and his famous house from `Shining`, while in the term of serial killer, the author also didn't try getting too deep into the psychology of his personality, not providing a full explanation what motivates or forces him to stalk girls from their youth. Thus it somehow seems that Lauren Beukes made a kind of compound of various references that she loves fitting them into the story not troubling too much herself or the reader with the details; she is taking a bit of many things that was written before combining them in her own work, not making any specific errors, it's evident that she made an extensive research, but missed a chance to excel and leave a deeper impression on reader.

'The Shining Girls' is far from being a book you will not have fun with, or something that you will not be able to finish, however, the subjective impression is that due to lack of time or inspiration, the author missed an opportunity to make her work much better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
STRENGTHS:

1) Suitably gory and cringeworthy, blunt and daring, and, quite literally, stomach-churning. I am referring, of course, to all the episodes of violence portrayed in the story. The character of the killer is, as the author intended, despicable and confounding, making the reader shout at him through the pages to stop his brutal deeds.

WEAKNESSES:

1) For me, the time-travel element added nothing of any literary value to the story. It did not make it any more or less entertaining, I feel, than if the story had been set in a frame of time that only moves forward.

2) Creative and high-impact as the language of the story is, it does not hide the story's vastly non-innovative main point of focus (and neither, as I say, does the time-travel element): a crazed, inhuman killer committing crazed, inhuman killings. Personally, I found nothing exciting about this.

3) I found the character of Kirby unrealistic and unsympathetic. Cocky and over-sexed, two features that don't marry well with her past, not to mention her implausibly top-notch detective skills.

I hardly engaged with "The Shining Girls", then. After the first hundred pages or so, I mostly skim-read it, and felt that I was missing very little.

One woman's opinions (and Lauren Beukes and her publishers are the ones whose opinions actually count).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 October 2013
some how did not flow and got lost within the different times zones. Strangly enough I had missed my connecting flight and was in Chicago for 24 hours and read what I thought was quite gruesome part there. That was 6 weeks ago and I haven't read it since then. I will finish it one day to find out the point of it
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2015
It's fascinating how reviews are almost evenly spread out over all five stars. Suspect it's not for everyone! I knew of Lauren Beukes and had read some of Zoo City so was expecting some fantasy aspects to the book. However, I notice the blurb seems to focus more on the serial killer aspect. Be warned that there's some time travel here and it's never really clearly explained how it happens. I really liked the structure of the book and found it genuinely creepy. There were some great twists and suspense. It helps if you check the date at the top of each chapter. At the very least, this is an original twist on the serial killer genre and it's worth giving it a chance. I found it riveting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 October 2013
I found The Shining Girls a gripping read from the rather menacing opening which while uncomfortably creepy is beautifully written.

The story concerns a rather grotesque serial killer who is able to travel back and forward in time, (a factor that makes it very difficult for him to be stopped).

Like the psychopath committing all manner of gory atrocities, the story jets back and forward in time as we encounter how these rather grizzly acts took place.

I felt the ending was kind of predictable but all in all, a very tense and very cinematic read.

Expect a mediocre Hollywood film version some time in the foreseeable future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2014
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
on 8 October 2013
A talented writer and very well written, but I'm not sure the time travel aspect was fully explored. It seemed to be more of an opportunity to create as much murder and mayhem as possible. If you like that sort of thing - you'll love it.
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on 26 September 2014
"Silence of the Lambs" meets the "Time Machine" in South African writer Lauren Beukes' surprisingly original, compelling, and engrossing "The Shining Girls". In her villain Harper Curtis, she has created a serial killer as memorable and as cunning as Hannibal Lector, though a serial killer who lacks Lector's exceptionally keen wit and intelligence. The heroine, Kirby Mazrachi, is more than a mere clone of Clarice Starling, the FBI trainee who confronts Lector in the "Silence of the Lambs", since she is one of the "shining girls"; she survives a near fatal assault by Harper, and possessed by her memory of it, begins tracking him, not only in the present, but also, the past. Beukes deserves ample praise for taking us into the twisted and tormented mind of Harper Curtis, beginning with a grisly episode as a child that foreshadows his serial killing across the vast gulf of time. Readers should note that there are many scenes that are extremely violent and bloody, and may be very shocking; don't be surprised if you might have to take pauses after reading some of the most graphic scenes of violence that are, in themselves, as intense as those depicted in the "Hannibal Lector" novels.

Impoverished, and quite destitute, in Depression-Era Chicago, Harper Curtis stumbles upon "The House", an almost derelict building that is also a time portal decades into the future, and one whose hypnotic spell forces him to find the "shining girls", marking them for death, and striking all too often many years later when the opportunities arise. Kirby relies on a handwritten list scrawled on a second floor wall, crossing off each name after he kills them. One of those he discovers is the young Kirby Mazrachi, whom he encounters when she is very young. Years later, after surviving his vicious attack, as an intern at a Chicago newspaper, Kirby teams up with ex-homicide reporter Dan Vasquez. Together, but primarily on her own, they embark upon a relentless pursuit to find Harper Curtis that will trace him back to "The House". A pursuit that must rank as among the most memorable in the annals of crime noir and horror fiction, worthy of favorable comparison with those from the likes of Poe, Lovecraft, Barker and King.

Much to her credit, Beukes offers readers a compelling tale told from the distinctive viewpoints of Harper and Kirby, and some of Harper's other victims. She does a most admirable job in dealing with the notion of time loops that are a staple of time travel science fiction, and readers should be aware of this, lest they find the narrative too jarring in its almost helter-skelter-like jumping across time and space, though that space is Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. She excels too in her realistic portrait of Chicago, and one worthy of comparison with the writings of Studs Terkel and John Steinbeck among others, especially in its gritty realism of Depression-era Chicago as well as this city in the 1990s. Had she set the tale in New York City, it could be comparable to some of the finest crime/thriller fiction written by Jimmy Breslin, Pete Hamill and Norman Mailer. With the "Shining Girls", Lauren Beukes has written a genre-bending literary masterpiece that should appeal to mainstream literary audiences, as well as those who read primarily science fiction and horror. Once more she has demonstrated why she may be Africa's most important, most distinctive, voice in speculative fiction.
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on 3 September 2014
In the great scheme of things I'm sure I can't be alone in being a somewhat picky reader. I have a habit of sticking to the same authors again and again, and usually find myself re-reading one of there back catalogue rather than devoting precious spare time to discovering new gems. It must be a comfort thing I guess, reading anything from a favourite author is like slipping on a well worn jumper and falling into the sofa after a long day at work for me.

That said I found myself picking this up from my local bookshop, I must confess it was heavily reduced for a hardback and the title helped enormously. What can I say? Quite simply it's one of the best stories I've read in a long time, I won't say it was the most original story I've ever read but boy can this lady spin a yarn. Think Stephen King crossed with maybe early Koontz pacing and you won't be far off.

Like many time travel stories you might need to focus a little harder - chapter titles are a big help here - but you'll be rewarded for doing so. Personally I fell for the protagonists in a big way - Kirby has a little bit of Lisbeth to her and that's never a bad thing, Dan is the guy I would want to be if life ever dealt me the same sort of cards. My only niggle? It's a little selfish and atypical of me but I wanted more, not Peter Jackson's Hobbit more but after the excellent build up the climax was just a little short for my liking.

To summerise - highly recommended - an extremely enjoyable page turner from an Author I hope to see much much more from in the years to come.
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