The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes’ third fiction offering, has generated huge amounts of critical acclaim and general fuss. Indeed, when I was loaned the book, the person doing the loaning prefaced this by regaling me with tales of how much I would love it and how she had read it in one afternoon. I was intrigued.
I’m also always a little nervous before starting a book that has been hyped up to this extent – poor book, so much pressure to perform. The premise behind this thriller is a clever one, and I can see why it’s garnered so much attention. A serial killer is stalking his victims…through time. Without giving too much away, Harper Curtis has found a way to travel through time, hunting down women as he goes, and managing to evade capture because of the very time travel that allows him to find his victims. Until one of them survives. On the surface, it’s implausible, and the kind of science fictionish plot that generally doesn’t appeal to me, although I loved The Time Traveller’s Wife unendingly. But it is a thriller, my favourite genre, and written by a South African who is attracting major international attention, and the reviews have all been stellar. So I settled in, ready to love it. To give the book its due, I think it requires sustained attention, and at the time I started reading it, I was swamped at work and suffering from a bad bout of the black lung. Not in a great space. So perhaps that is why it struggled to captivate my attention at first. Beukes’ writing is excellent, and the plot interesting, but I found that the characters lacked real depth. I didn’t feel any connection to the heroine of the tale, Kirby Mazrachi, or her ally Dan Velasquez, or even the time defying, murderous Harper. Possibly there was just too much intricacy in the story already, leaving the characters a bit one dimensional. Towards the end, as the clever use of short snappy chapters hastened the novel and its reader towards the twisty conclusion, I was more engrossed, but I have to say, while I really enjoyed it, I didn’t love it. But I liked it enough to want to read some of the author’s other works, and I’m planning to get my hands on them soon.