Harper Curtis is a typical psychopathic serial killer who targets young women of a certain age, but he has some very atypical characteristics. For starters, the women he targets are those he describes as “shining girls,” who have some indescribable special quality that he alone can see, women who are destined to break ground in male-dominated fields or somehow have the potential to change the world. Curtis can pick these shining girls out when they are still just young children, and he bides his time until they reach the right age.
He doesn’t have to wait for long, though, because his other special ability is to travel through time, with the help of a run-down house in Chicago that he enters during the Depression and quickly discovers that it opens onto other times. Curtis spots these young girls, relies on the house to send him to the right time when they are of the right age, and murders them grotesquely. He thinks it’s the perfect crime because he immediately returns to the house and back to his own time so that any clues the police may be following lead to nothing.
Curtis doesn’t count on Kirby, one of the shining girls he first visits in the 1970’s and returns to in modern times to murder. Unbeknownst to Curtis, who had immediately fled back to the past, Kirby didn’t die, and now she is determined to find her would-be killer. She joins the Chicago Sun-Times and manages to team up with Dan Velasquez, the ex-homicide reporter who originally covered her attack.
I love any story that involves time-travel, with its twisty-turny plot and thought-provoking elements, and this one is no different. A time-traveling serial killer! That’s just brilliant, and Beukes carries it out perfectly. The only downside is that this book is really gruesome at times (one of the main reasons I don’t read many thrillers any more) because Curtis is seriously deranged and delights in torturing and killing his victims in horrifying ways, but the time travel element – and the character of Kirby – kept me captivated. The Shining Girls is a wholly unique, gripping story, fast-paced and filled with suspense that kept me reading late into the night.