Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013, 8:31 am
"The Shining Girls" is a genre-bending thriller that hits every important mark with confidence and swagger.
I need to piece some things together. I need to make a chart; draw a diagram; create a companion volume with itineraries, timelines and lists of personal effects. In short, I need to make sense of what I just read. Time-travel books do that though, right? They throw us off-kilter. Their obliteration of our most unyielding reality, that time only goes one way and there are no take-backs, leaves them uniquely qualified to punch holes in that barrier between fiction and real life. You might close the book, but the sense of something being unresolved, out of place, unfinished still lingers.
Of course The Shining Girls is much more than a time-travel novel. Author Lauren Beukes deftly incorporates suspense, historical fiction, horror and even a little bit of romance into the mix, delivering a work that's ultimately five stars worth of ambition and execution.
The story itself centers around a Depression-era drifter from Chicago named Harper Curtis. Curtis has stumbled on a gateway that allows him to travel through time. He uses this newfound portal to identify women with great potential and kill them before they fulfill it. One of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives his attack and sets out to bring the killer to justice. Enlisting the help of former homicide reporter Dan Velasquez, Kirby gradually pieces together what amounts to an impossible puzzle.
The Shining Girls has gotten a fair amount of press, even being compared to Gillian Flynn's blockbuster, Gone Girl. As we know, where there's hype backlash is sure to follow. Is The Shining Girls perfect? No. Are there legitimate criticisms? Sure, but here's thing: The Shining Girls is good enough to rise above its occasional missteps and clichés and provide readers with a first-rate and multifaceted thriller.