18 April 2013

The Shining Girls - Lauren Beukes

The Blurb: Chicago, 1931. A strange house gives serial-killer Harper the power to travel through time; to hunt and kill his ‘shining girls’. They’re bright young women full of spark – until he cuts it out of them, leaving clues from different times behind to taunt fate. Kirby, the 90s girl, survives his attack and turns the hunt around. Tracing Harper’s bloody trail of victims – from a glowing dancer in the 30s to a tough welder in the 40s and a bombshell architect in the 50s – Kirby is running out of time trying to solve an impossible mystery. And Harper is heading towards her once again.

This is the first time that I've included the book trailer, since it's a doozy and damn well done.

To the book!

First off, Joey Hi-Fi is a damn magician when it comes to book covers. The black one up there is the limited edition hardback of which only 1,000 was printed. I was lucky enough to receive number 541. I also attended the book launch in Johannesburg, but was too much of a fanboy to ask anything of worth. I apologise for this and will do better next time.

The premise of the book is helluva interesting. A time travelling serial killer kills his Shining Girls. He feels drawn to them, drawn to something they possess. He visits them throughout their lives and then, when he cannot contain himself any longer, kills them. And not quickly. The killer is Harper, a 1920's degenerate who stumbles upon a time travelling house which allows him to travel up to 1993 and back.

The story is based in Chicago, and the amount of research that has gone into the historical city is purely perfect. There's no infodump, just an interesting observation now and then about the technology, fashions or state of the city in the different eras to make them stand out beautifully. 

Harper is a sick bastard of a human being. He is clearly insane and getting worse throughout the book. He takes a deserved pummelling from the world in general and from his victims, and I must say it felt good reading how his ass gets handed to him. He's a monster of the worst order as all serial killers surely are. He possesses no redeeming quality, but then if their was any he'd have been a much shallower character. I'm not sure if I believe in pure evil, but his insanity makes him come pretty close.

Kirby is the only victim who survived the attack, and her story primarily happens in 1993. She is most definitely not one to sit back and accept her fate or swallow the hurt and move on. She dedicates her life to finding her attacker and to stop him from hurting anyone else. She enrols to study journalism for the sole reason to get to Dan, a burnt out homicide Journalist who is currently covering sports,to get him to help her in her investigations. She is driven, foul mouthed and distrustful of most people. Hell, she's fun to read. The relationship between Dan and Kirby is really uplifting in the book, as it introduces a nice touch of humanity into a pretty dark story. 

One of the interesting things about this book is the chapters. Since it's a novel that involves time travelling, they aren't close to chronological. Harper is all over the place and it made reading interesting, seeing as it made me look at the chapter header for possibly the first time in my life. It adds a touch of chaos to the novel, and it works well.

Time travel is well known for the paradoxes it can create, and those are skilfully handled. The more I think about it the more impressed I am. Harper screws up quite a bit as you'd expect him to, and all these are brought into the story without a hitch. I do not want to spoil anything, so I won't elaborate.

The ending is elegant. I can't think of a better word to describe it. It was surprising and pure perfection. 

So, if you would like to read a dark, twisted, beautiful, damn close to perfect novel, read this one. 


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