The Shining Girls

Lauren Beukes
The Shining Girls Cover

The Shining Girls


This is almost purely a horror, serial killer novel, except for the time travel element. The story is not told in linear time order, but in the order of events as the killer is experiencing them, as he goes to different time periods from a house that he believes is sending him. The killings are brutal, and he leaves clues that are so spread apart in time they are unlikely to be connected. Then he doesn't finish off one girl, Kirby, who settles into being one of the main, repeated characters in the book.

After finishing I went back and flipped through some of the sections again, only to discover that there was even more layering of people and places than I realized, because I didn't have the connections made in my mind already.

This isn't what I expected from Lauren Beukes, whose previous two novels have bridged cyberpunk and urban fantasy, but that isn't a bad thing. At first I claimed it was nothing like her, but as two of the main characters work for a newspaper and her background is in journalism, you start to see a lot of the author within the work. I kind of missed the urban South African environment that she's written in before, but she captured the various periods of Chicago and its suburbs equally well, along with nuances of American historical culture.

Beukes is a smart writer. I'm not sure how many horror writers throw in words and phrases like zoetrope, pestilential, tragus, galoot, salacious, "facile placebos," inveigled, apoplectic, palanquin, and "homogeneity of aspiration." The book is well constructed even in what could have been a messy timeline, and doesn't drone on and on in unedited thousands of pages like Stephen King, an author who I'd easily put her up against. I'm not sure I'd want to read it again, because serial killers make me squeamish, but I'd recommend it to horror fans.