This is one of those books I sat on. It fact I actually dismissed it. The pitch didn’t grab me: a serial killer who travels through time. I felt serial killer novels were pretty much exhausted especially since I went sour on Dexter and the time travel element just seemed, well, silly. But after the book was recommended by a vast array of very different sources I bit the bullet and then gave myself a good hard kick because this book was awesome.
Harper Curtis is the book’s serial killer and he is definitely not of the friendly variety. Harper is already a twisted and violent man but what he is about to discover will set in motion a vicious chain of events. On a winter’s night in 1931 he discovers a house that not only gives him the ability to travel through time but sets him on a course of murder. The house points him towards the ‘shining girls’ who he must track down through the decades and kill.
Harper is seemingly unstoppable. In most time periods he visits forensics barely exists and he rarely stays around long enough to worry about witnesses. But he has made one mistake. One of his victims has survived, unbeknownst to Harper, and she begins digging for answers about who her would-be killer is.
The narrative is told from Harper’s point of view and his missed victim Kirby. We follow the story as Harper works through his list and jumps between Chicago of the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s but never in that order. And as Kirby, in 1992, tries to piece together what happened to her and why. Harper does leave a trace with each murder, an object taken from another victim and swapped for something else but only Kirby has been able to find the pattern and only then because she survived his attack. We also meet the other ‘shining girls’ at different times and ages as Harper stalks them through the decades.
The time travel is also handled really well. There are two schools of time travel; time that is constantly changing and rearranging itself and time that is set in stone. Beukes uses the latter and as the story unfolds all the pieces begin to fall into place. This also affects the narrative chronology. Kirby’s story is told pretty much straight forward except for her attack which fits into Harper’s narrative which is told in his own chronology, not time’s, which is the only way everything could make sense.
This was a cracking read combining two familiar genres and putting a new spin on each. The different time periods adds an extra layer to explore in a crime mystery and the tension and suspense is also increased. Beukes handles everything with subtlety and skill leaving you constantly guessing without ever disbelieving and definitely not disappointed.
Classification: Crime & mystery
Format: Paperback (198mm x 130mm x 26mm)
Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publish Date: 1-Nov-2013
Country of Publication: Australia