When the prey becomes the hunter, I’m always a happy reader. I love a good book where the would-be victim decides “screw this” and that she isn’t going to play along with sick games anymore, or rather that she can play the game better. Speaking of things I love – when a South African writer is being published internationally, it makes me happy! There’s definitely hope for the South African literary mind, and Lauren Beukes represents this perfectly.
The Shining Girls is an easy-to-read book that consists of short chapters and shifts in narrative perspective that bounces between disgusting psycho-killer drifter Harper Curtis and the victim that got away Kirby Mazrachi (love how the girl and guy names are reversed in this book by the way), not to mention other perspectives.
In a very Stephen-King plotline, The Shining Girls follows Harper Curtis into a house with a time warp – it allows him to travel across different eras, thus making him impossible to trace. Throughout each of his victim’s lives, he follows them through these different eras and traces the steps of the socio-pathological Curtis as he retraces his own footsteps throughout history. Curtis doesn’t know what one of his “shining girls” has survived, and this enables Kirby to attempt to trace the man who almost destroyed her through the ages he hops between.
The book is succinctly written (I’m personally not a fan of Tolkien-wannabees who take four pages to describe a rock). It may not be a light read per se, but dreary is not a word I’d use to describe this book – attention-grabbing – sure. Peculiar? Definitely! One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was the clever historical references that are planted in the text. Beukes had definitely done her homework when she wrote this one and the attention to detail is brilliant. She keeps you in the era you’ve landed and helps you pop back out skilfully.
Even more impressive is Beuke’s Chicago setting. It’s profoundly difficult to set a book in a location that is not your home, and seeing as how she came from Cape Town, this masterful location writing is pretty damn impressive.
The reviews on this work have mostly been very positive, The Shining Girls has managed to impress even the toughest critics, and the fact that she’s being compared to Stephen King (by more than just me) is a true testament to the talent emerging from Lauren Beukes. If you haven’t read The Shining Girls and you’re a fan of strongly-written thriller/horror/suspense/vengeance genres, get yourself to a book store. If you’re not a fan – get the book anyway and become one.