Rummanah Aasi
  I first heard of The Shining Girls while listening to the author being interviewed on NPR. The phrase "time traveling serial killer in Chicago" is what drew me to this book. Reviews for this book have been all over the place. Some readers thought it was a well written genre bending book that mixes time traveling, horror, suspense and mystery while others thought the premise was very cool but it was ultimately dissatisfying. I'm in the latter group.

Description: A time-traveling serial killer is impossible to trace-- until one of his victims survives. In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. He stalks them through their lives across different eras until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him back. Working with an ex-homicide reporter who is falling for her, Kirby has to unravel an impossible mystery.

Review: The Shining Girls is an ambitious, genre bending novel that doesn't quite pan out. Harper Curtis isn't your ordinary serial killer. He gets to time travel from the 1920s through the 1980s, killing girls in different decades, all to satisfy a compulsion. We aren't given any explanation or clues how the time traveling works or where does Harper's compulsion originate from, which is very disappointing since that's the only reason why I continued to suffer to finish this book when I should have given up. All we know is that Harper is compelled to track down and murder specific shining girls that he gets in visions in gruesome ways (usually evisceration), and he gets away with it since he can escape across time; except in 1989 when one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, miraculously recovers from the vicious attack and knows of him. Harper and Kirby play cat and mouse. Harper wants nothing more to fix his mistake while Kirby dedicates her whole life in tracking down her assailant, even if the police consider it a closed case.
  There are a lot of interesting tidbits found in this book, but unfortunately the author doesn't take advantage of it. Despite its action filled premise, the book moves very slowly and I was bored for most of the time. We don't really get to know Harper before he became a serial killer and we are lead to believe that a very creepy, abandoned Chicago bungalow (much like the hotel in Stephen King's The Shining) is causing him to be evil but we are never sure. Unlike Harper, we do feel bad for Kirby and want her to get her justice but she comes off as an angsty, whiny teen when in fact she's very much an adult. There is an attempt of a subdued love story between Kirby and Dan, a reporter at the Sun-Times, but I never really felt their connection. It almost came off as Dan being more like a father figure to Kirby rather than a love interest. Things start to get a little interesting as Dan and Kirby slowly uncover odd clues left behind in a dozen unsolved murder cases; it turns out Harper has been leaving behind items from the future.
 Needless to say I wasn't thrilled with The Shining Girls. It's clear that Buekes did a lot of research to make the Chicago setting authentic but she doesn't really take advantage of a very cool premise. Definitely for not all tastes, especially those with a sensitive stomach for gore and violence. Fans of the supernatural and a different spin on the horror genre might enjoy this one.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, strong graphic violence, and some sexual situations. Recommended for adults only.

If you like this book try: The Shining by Stephen King, The Rosary Girls by Richard Montanari, Three Days to Never by Tim Powers
8 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Too bad on this one Rummanah! It really has such a promising premise, I'm so surprised to learn it's a touch boring and that there's no explanation for the time travel aspect. I also don't love that Kirby comes across as young and whiny despite being an adult. Thanks for your thoughts though!


  2. Too bad. This sounds really interesting. Also quite familiar. I may have heard that story on NPR too.


  3. Hm... I don't know... I'm not opposed to gore, but sometimes... Probably this one isn't for me, but I do know some that love this kind of horror and I should recommend it to them!


  4. Aw, it's a shame that this one didn't live up to its potential. When I read the synopsis, it seemed like there was a deeper reason behind Harper having to kill all these girls so it's disappointing the book never gave an explanation. It's also too bad that you found this one slow instead of exciting. Hope your next read is better, Rummanah!


  5. This is such a powerful premise that it's a shame the novel didn't quite live up. I'll admit I'm still wholly intrigued though! Great review, Rummanah :)


  6. I would think the whole pay off for reading the novel would be finding out what or why the compulsion is and to stop it so no one else can be under that compulsion. And or destroy the way to time travel if there is no other way. But again, the payoff should be full disclosure!!! So sorry it did not live up to expectations. Way too little time to waste on a book that doesn't pay off.


  7. Huh! One would think the author would bother to explain something as big as time travel! I love the idea behind this, but the execution sounds so sadly lacking that I'm pretty sure I won't be picking this up anytime soon.
    Thanks for saving me the trouble. :)


  8. Lauren D. Says:

    Oh no, I'm so bummed to hear this story didn't live up to the amazing potential of the premise. It's hard to imagine a time traveling serial killer story being boring at times, but it sounds like the execution just wasn't there. Thank you for your honest, thoughtful review!


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