Timeless Chicago: The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes


Mulholland Books, 2012

ISBN 0316216852 (ISBN13: 9780316216852)

Part of the Mysteries from Every State Challenge

shining girlsUnexpected, thrilling, and well written, Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls was a wonderfully unexpected and original mystery/crime novel. It was refreshing to read Beukes’ take on the classic story of the serial killer.

Kirby is the last of the shining girls—girls destined to die at the hand of an unusual serial killer. Kirby if the last in a long line of Harper’s victims, stretching back to 1931. The women are connected to each other through small objects belonging stolen from one victim and left with the mangled body of another.

A strange house in a changing neighborhood and time period is the evil behind Harper’s need and desire to kill. The house gives Harper the power to time travel, but it also compels him to stalk and viciously murder his victims.

Even though the idea of time travel usually falls flat, Beukes manages to pulls off a sci-fi thriller that is definitely not cheesy. The time-travel element is actually well though out and an integral part of why the story’s structure works so well.

If you’ve read some of my other reviews, you know I’m a sucker for a well-structured book, and this is definitely that. Like few others, at the end, this book wraps all of the loose ends in a tight, cohesive little package, with no unanswered questions, where details and characters that initially appear as inconsequential all come together in one clearly structured story. Love it!

The characters were interesting, unique and complicated. Harper’s victims between 1931 and 1992 also showed the passing of time from a woman’s perspective, describing women’s position in society as how it has changed.

The Shining Girls was also interesting in how it described Chicago, its neighborhoods, its inhabitants and how they changed throughout the 20th century. Interestingly, the novel portrays Chicago as a city where things often change but also remain the same.

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