Review: The Shining Girls / Author: Lauren Beukes / Publisher: HarperCollins / Release Date: May 9th
It's 1931: Harper Curtis is a violent, small-time criminal, scrabbling to stay alive in Chicago during the Great Depression. On the run after killing someone, thanks to some sinister serendipity he finds a key to a ramshackle house where he takes refuge. Soon, though, he discovers that this run-down building is not all that it seems.
In the House, Harper learns that he can time travel to any time between 1929 and 1993 simply by thinking of a date. But there's something more evil at work. In the House is the Room, a list of women's names scrawled upon its walls. These are the 'Shining Girls': young women scattered across the mid-to-late 2oth century who have great future potential. Potential that Harper believes must be snuffed out. He thus becomes a serial killer, flitting between decades with murder in mind. As well as carnage and heartbreak, he leaves behind a trail of anachronistic, untraceable clues on his victims.
Untraceable, that is, until he botches one of the murders. Left for dead after one of Harper's brutal attacks, Kirby Mazrachi should not be alive; she too is a Shining Girl. Kirby is the likeable damaged heroine of this book: a Lisbeth Salander-style punkette with a sharp intellect and passionate desire for justice.
Arthur C. Clarke Award-winner Lauren Beukes expertly delivers an unconventional, non-linear narrative that skips between decades and characters. The writing is smart, the pace is snappy, the action perfectly timed and the period detail spot-on. The House is a nice twist on your typical haunted abode, and altogether this is a creative mash-up of a novel that blends elements of thriller, horror, crime and science fiction with enormous verve. Be warned though, the violence against women is exceptionally graphic, albeit depicted in the context of a clear feminist stance. The Shining Girlsemploys clever concepts that are brilliantly executed. It's ace and deserves to be a huge success.