Interesting twist on the serial killer genre

Written by
Lauren Beukes in 2013

I don’t normally go for the serial killer/detective type books, mainly because the serial killer has to be pretty damn smart to get away with it for so long. Or, they can do it in a place so remote that proof is hard to find. Usually, both scenarios make for boring stories, because the baddy that’s too smart is uninteresting, and serial killers in remote places means not much happens.

Enter The Shining Girls, which is about a serial killer who can time travel. Not very Doctor Who, but it does bring an interesting premise. How do you hunt a serial killer that appears and reappears seemingly randomly throughout history?

Harper is a man alive during the desperate times of the Great Depression. He happens upon a mysterious house which is surprisingly well furnished and gets down to his “mission”, which is offing women who “shine” with talent. It’s not immediately obvious (or ever, actually) why these women are chosen by The House, but Harper obeys its wishes and begins to kill them all one by one.

Well, he gets nearly all of them. Kirby narrowly misses out on her premature death when her dog saves her life. Kirby, not at all satisfied that her would be killer is still on the loose somewhere, dedicates her life to crime journalism, in the hope that it will lead to her exacting her revenge.

The Shining Girls is an enjoyable read. It’s not very long, and there’s not really any extraneous clutter. Beukes simply tells her story, from start to end, with some time travel in between. The characters themselves aren’t all that exciting, Harper is your typical clusterf*cked serial killer, Kirby is a strong, daring woman who manages to pick herself up from the floor after the trauma. And all the other characters are pretty much set pieces for Harper.

I don’t want to say that you won’t like The Shining Girls if you tried it. Certainly, it isn’t your typical catch the serial killer fare, and there are a few glaring plotholes in it. But in the end, you’ll probably enjoy it for what it is, a book that tells a good story. Whether or not the story is memorable, however, is debatable.


Decent crime/mystery story with some time travel thrown in.

Read this if you…

Have a few hours to kill on a plane/train/bus/holiday period.

Skip this if you…

Love your dog.


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