shininggirlsBefore we even get into this review, let me offer the following disclaimer: if you are one of those people (read: my mom) that has to ask a thousand questions just to make it through an episode of Law and Order, this book might not be for you.

That said, if you enjoy page turning thrillers, time-travel, and suspense-filled action, you might have just found your next book.

Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls follows, primarily, two characters: Harper Curtis and Kirby Mazrachi. The former is a Depression-era serial killer drawn to “the House” through which he is able to travel through time and snuff out those pesky shining girls (more on this in a moment). The latter is supposed to be one of those girls… except she doesn’t die. Once she’s healed and we meet her as a college age adult in the early 1990s, she’s attempting to track down her anachronistic attacker.

Seems simple enough, no? Match up a few clues, find an M.O., maybe a murder weapon and some finger prints and we’re done. Thankfully, Beukes’s thriller doesn’t read like a simple afternoon CSI rerun.

For nearly the entire book, both characters are involved in a time and space-bending dance. Kirby gets really close, Harper slips up, Kirby falls off the trail, Harper claims another victim. Some how, in all of this, the plot never veers off the deep end into obscure complexity.

You can color me simple-minded and old-fashioned, but the one thing that struck me as odd was the juxtaposition of the murder scenes and the woman that wrote them. I have a hard copy of this book, so every time I’d turn a page (frequently) or put the book down (infrequently), I’d be likely to come across the smiling face of the blonde-haired South African author. Then I’d laugh and return to any number of the gruesome and oddly personal, yet difficult to turn away from, scenes where a woman would have her insides ripped out and strewn about the room.

The only aspect of the book that caused me some confusion was exactly why Harper had to murder those various girls. Of course, it’s literally explained: the House has their names written and glowing on the walls of the upstairs bedroom. But exactly why the House was a time portal or why these women need to be wiped out of existence was never explicitly detailed.

At first, this was an issue for me. I looked into it a little bit, discovered the term MacGuffin and realized that might be exactly what we’re dealing with here. However, even if that’s not what this was, I realized, it doesn’t matter why the House has the powers it does.

Did anyone care what made Ace Ventura such a kindred spirit with animals or exactly why Hannibal Lecter was a cannibalistic serial killer? Only one of those examples applies directly, but you get my point.

The real issues are that the characters are compelling, some in obvious ways (Kirby’s struggle to track down her attacker) and some in less-than-obvious ways (Harper’s precision and commitment to a task he can’t fully understand), and that the story really moves—and not just through time.