The Shining Girls is a riveting time traveling serial killer mystery, based in various years of the 20th century and set in Chicago. Harper, the killer, is inexplicably drawn to the “House” and finds in his own handwriting the names of his victims: the Shining Girls. These victims are all strong and unique women that Harper stalks through time, waiting to find the perfect moment to kill them and take trophies. He takes trophies to enjoy personally in the House and to also leave with the next victim’s body, therefore creating a circle that he feels the need to complete. We get no background on Harper and why he ended up doing what he does, but it doesn’t really matter because what is happening in the moment is everything to Harper. There is magic realism in play and a conversation about free will and the unexplainable need to do something. Harper can leave the House and go to whatever time period in the future while staying in Chicago. He uses this to stalk his victims, finding some when they are young and telling them that he will be back for them. It’s interesting to see one character, Alice, look forward to him coming back having no idea what will eventually happen to her. Another character, Catherine, can’t handle the knowledge that a stranger is following her and ends up becoming a drug addict. As an adult she makes art by tearing and painting on paper saying that “destruction is a natural instinct”. This is the only feasible explanation for why Harper does what he does as a serial killer, he has no free will to stop what he is doing.
Harper’s one surviving victim, Kirby, eventually starts to look for him. She is drawn to do so thinking she has no other choice (again bringing up the topic of free will). She lands an internship at the Chicago Sun-Times with the reporter who originally covered her attack. She uses the paper’s resources to track down similar murders in Chicago and at first the span of time seems impossible, but Kirby keeps working on it. It’s satisfying to see Kirby work through the evidence to find what she is looking for. The way the story goes back and forth in perspective, especially from the victim's point of view is a real strong point of Beukes’ novel.
TL:DR- The Shining Girls is a compelling time travel mystery tracking a killer and his one surviving victim; both of them thinking they are doing the only thing they can because they have no other choice.
Reviewed by Katie Holland, who is a Chicago based artist, creative mind and bookworm.
Publication Date: June 4, 2013 Page Count: 375
ISBN: 0316216852 Publisher: Mulholland Books