I mean. Come on. Just, this author did not have to do any work at all in selling this book to a publisher. And the publisher had no trouble marketing it. Obviously. Time-traveling serial killer sells itself. All this book had to do was show up and it would have been popular, just because we all wanted to read the book about the time-traveling serial killer.
Luckily, this book is far from phoned in. It maybe even goes a bit further in the other direction. It was a bit too disjointed and weird and experimental in places, and it didn’t fully meet all my desires and expectations. It was a hell of a read, though.
So, yes, there is a time-traveling serial killer. He stumbles upon a house that seemingly can take him through time within a specific window, and he finds a list of girls (he calls them his Shining Girls, hence the name), and he sets about killing them, without rhyme or reason. The book is about a third his perspective, and a third individual POV chapters from his victims, usually right before he kills them. So, if you are sensitive to murder or this kind of thing, I wouldn’t read this book. You get attached to the victims, and then they die. With one exception. Kirby Mazrachi is the hero of this book, and she’s the Shining Girl that got away. She’s the only one of the killer’s victims who lives, and as the blurb states, she begins hunting him back.
Kirby was my favorite part of this book. She and her partner/mentor at the Chicago Sun-Times, Dan, have this wonderful bantery relationship that gets under your skin pretty much right away. She’s also just a really fun character, even as she’s going through some tough stuff (the scene where she is attacked is nausea-inducing, especially if you like dogs, just as a warning).
Ultimately, I think this book works despite itself. The narrative timeline is all jumbled up, purposefully, so that at times you’re reading references to things that haven’t happened yet, or you’re seeing a confrontation that won’t be concluded until 100 pages from now, or you’re further along in one person’s timeline than another, etc. Some of this worked brilliantly. I always like feeling a little discombobulated in these types of books. But as I noted above, this one I think went just a little too far. There’s a line you can cross when doing things to confuse your readers, where it starts to backfire and take away the effect your story is meant to have on them, and I think Beukes crossed that line at several points. Luckily, whenever it happened, she was able to recover quickly by something awesome happening, usually with Kirby, but it did detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. The ‘Why’ of the time-traveling serial killer’s magical time-traveling house is also never fully solved. It hints at some possible explanations, but nothing is definite. But it’s just not a “definite” type of book.
Ultimately, any quibble I have with this book comes down to me disagreeing with deliberate, stylistic choices the author made. And there are worse problems to have with a book. And I liked it enough to check out Beukes’ other work, for sure.
Also, I read this in audio, and it was great. It’s a full cast production. Well, sort of. Each POV character gets their own separate narrator, even if they’re only around for a chapter. The effect of this is to really give each of them their own voices, and a lot of the narrators were very talented.
To sum up:
Premise of a time-traveling serial killer=YES. Actual book of a time-traveling serial killer=Not worthy of all caps, but still “Yes.”