MUST READ: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (5 out of 5)
This is a new feature on my blog. Once in a great while (I hope it’s more often), I will highlight a book that is absolutely a must read, a phenomenal piece of work that will have you talking about it for years after the fact. I don’t always have the luck of getting my customers at the store to listen to me with my recommendations. I figure if there’s another purpose to the blog besides it being a creative outlet for the many books I have the luck to read, it’s that maybe someone will stumble upon it and find a book that they decide to read, and end up enjoying. So they recommend it to someone, and the circle of books (make that movie, Pixar!) continues unbroken. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is one of those books.
The lovely Lisa had sent an email out months ago inviting one of us to go to an author dinner for this author. I remember thinking I would like to, but my father’s precarious health at that point in time pretty much put the kibosh on anything I was trying to get out and do, so I didn’t end up going. I then promptly forgot about this book, until my friend Dave found it and pointed it out to me, saying it sounded awesome, etc. I then forgot about it. Again. Until a few weeks ago. Then I got a copy of it lent to me by my friend, John. John not only has exceptional taste in wine, but books as well. Now that’s two of my guy friends whose opinions I greatly value, so I figured I better quit screwing around and read it. And I did, in about 4 hours. I could NOT set this book down, as unsettling as it was at points throughout. It reminded me of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist with a dash of Devil In the White City by Erik Larsen meets the movie Road to Perdition.
Harper Curtis is a serial killer from the past who has stepped into the present, via a Depression-era establishment known as The House, which is a house that- wait for it-opens onto other eras, years, decades. Kirby Mazrachi is a girl who is his next target, and not meant to live beyond Harper’s discovery of the House. Kirby is the last of the Shining Girls, young girls with limitless potential, and she’s not meant to go into the future, because Harper, a man of the past, is here and now to snuff out that flame. How is he getting away with this? Simple. He vanishes in and out of time after the violent murder of one of the girls, repeating this, so that the authorities have a case that baffles them. And it does. Kirby decides it’s time to do something about this, as she is the next victim. The inevitable happens, but the inevitable happens- Kirby survives! She joins the Sun-Times and works with the former homicide reporter who covered her case to start with. The police have officially given up, as the clues make no sense whatsoever (the reveal of what is left and how it comes to be, is ingenious). Are you confounded? Oh yes, you will be. And it’s well worth the twisting ride.
What did I love? I loved the whole thing! Just when I thought I had finally figured the fucker out, it took another dark turn on the roller coaster, and I had to start the logic puzzle all over again. I haven’t had a book in a while where I had to stop and re-read it over and over again because I couldn’t believe the thought algorithms present here. Now I can say I’ve have that experience again. It was fun, it’s been a long while. I would definitely put this on my list of all time favorite books. Definitely right up there with The Alienist and Shadow of the Wind as far as plot twists, character development, imagery, and downright addictive reading. The book doesn’t lag at any point. I can’t say any more except that you have got to read this book. It’s absolutely stunning and needs to be experienced by the masses.