How do we come to read the books we do? I mean what is it that makes us pick that book over all the rest?
In the case of the book I just finished, South-African writer Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls, it was a few things. First off, I knew her from her much lauded Zoo-City, though I have not read it. I then heard early reviewers speak well of The Shining Girls, and I “know” Lauren from Twitter. But it was the premise of the book that made me curious enough to buy it. (So perhaps there is our formula: previous well-reviewed book, positive early reviews, personable writer and an interesting premise. Perhaps.)
What’s it about?
The premise of The Shining Girls is as follows: a rough man with a penchant for violence stumbles on a house that enables him to travel in time (within the limits of about the first week he comes upon the house, to a certain day in 1993.) He uses that house to brutally murder women who shine in his eyes, throughout the time years he has access to. But one of them gets away, and she is plenty pissed off. She starts fishing around in old case files and finds some interesting things, including a baseball card on a murdered girl with a player on it that didn’t even start playing baseball until a few years after the murder. And then the manhunt begins.
It is a rather quick read; I read most of it waiting for my flight from Glasgow to Reykjavik. My curiosity kept me turning the pages but a lot of it was frustration. We keep waiting for our protagonist, Kirby Mazrachi, to put the pieces together, pieces that we are already given on the back of the book (pro tip: buy the book without reading the back). However, the book is quite exciting and well written, though Beukes could give us a little more description of the scenes where the action takes place, and maybe throw in a little more poetry in her writing. The Shining Girls reads fast and quick but I feel it could have used a little more… shine. There is also a chapter in the middle where Kirby is suddenly inside the killer’s time-portal house that is unnecessary and confusing, as are the sheer number of victims, who I was getting mixed up near the end of the book. And while we know that the killer is insane, I never really felt it.
HOWEVER. The book is very good, and I am simply picking at a few loose threads in a well-woven carpet. This is a book people will be reading while pacing around and biting their nails, and will then push on their friends. It is well written, exciting and full of interesting characters. It has a touch of Stephen King to it (and not just in the title); though King’s version would be five times as long. Lauren Beukes has written what I think will be one of this year’s most talked about books, and deservedly so.
Star Rating: 4 shining stars.
This is a book you want to read before everyone else does and ruins it for you. Also, check out Lauren Beukes’ homepage.