Lauren Beukes's Shining Girls: a serial killer thriller with a time-travel twist

Lauren Beukes's latest novel, The Shining Girls, ships in the UK today (the US edition is out on June 4). The Shining Girls is a departure from Beukes's earlier cyberpunk-inflected fiction, being a supernatural thriller that's one part Hannibal and one part House on Haunted Hill, tautly written and sharply plotted.

Shining Girls is the story of a serial killer named Harper Curtis, a savage psychopath who hunts the alleyways of a stinking Hooverville in Depression-era Chicago. Curtis is your basic remorseless nutcase who reels from one act of callous violence to another. Until he happens upon a boarded-up house where he seeks refuge from the people he's wronged and a chance to rest up and lick his wounds from an unsuccessful encounter. And that house isn't just a house, it's the House, an unexplained and inexplicable haunted place that slips through time back and forth between the Depression and the early 1990s. In this house is a room, filled with the trophies of murdered girls and their names, written on the wall in Curtis's own handwriting. Curtis learns that his destiny is to travel through the ages, killing the girls he's already killed, taking the trophies he's already taken.

One of Harper's victims is Kirby Mazrachi, but unlike the rest (and unbeknownst to Harper), Kirby survives his vicious attack. As Kirby matures, her obsession with the man who nearly killed her takes over her life, and she wrangles a job interning for the Chicago Sun-Times reporter who covered her attack all those years ago. She wheedles him into helping her pick up the details again, and slowly they begin to unravel the weird and awful truth.

Deftly told from many points of view and in many timezones, Shining Girls is a tremendous work of suspense fiction. What's more, it's a fabulous piece of both time-travel and serial killer fiction, using the intersection of those two themes to explore questions of free will, predestination, and causality in a mind-melting, heart-pounding mashup that delivers on its promise.

The Shining Girls


  1. I have to admit, not familiar with the author’s previous work, that I reacted in hopes that this was about the 2 twin sisters from “The Shining”…

    1.  How about “Sir Eel Killers?”  A book about the nefarious activities of a fishing magnate.

      A very rare book.  I doubt you’ll find a copy.

  2. While I am a huge fan of her previous efforts, I’ll be skipping this one. Really, does the world need another time travel story? There’s nothing fresh to be done with the concept. Or am I wrong?

    1. How do you even know if you’ve not read the book yet…?  And does a book have to be “fresh” to be enjoyable?! I don’t think so.

    2. I’m hard pressed to think of a type of story the world actually “needs” – and sure, I’m up for another time travel story. Why on earth not?

    3. The story uses time travel to deal with a lot of stuff, like inescapable obsession and changing attitudes to women during the 20th century. Read it, it’s worth it. Full disclosure – I know Lauren personally, which is how I got my hands on an advance copy.

    4. How presumptuous of you.  The Shining Girls is even better than Zoo City.  You have no idea what this book is about or what you’re talking about.

        1. Choosing what to read is one thing — deciding if a book is good or not BEFORE reading it is another — learn the definition of presumptuous please.

  3. Damn. Just saw this in the shop the other day, thought about it, and passed it over. If I’d seen this post it probably would have decided me.

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