Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.
Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.
At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He’s the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.
Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth . . .
I’ve wanted to read this book since before I read Broken Monsters – mostly because I love the cover (I really need to stop judging books by their covers) and I was told this book is different to most crime/thriller novels. It’s not really a crime novel as such. It has elements of science fiction in it, and the jumping-back-and-forth style of storytelling is different to that of most crime/thriller novels.
The serial killer, Harper Curtis, is not glorified in this book – nor is his only survivor, Kirby, who starts tracking down his other victims in an attempt to catch Harper. Lauren Beukes always has such great characterisation. Each victim – and they may only be featured on a couple of pages – really feels unique, and you come to understand them, their desires, and what motivates them. And then they leave the story, and you feel depleted.
Beukes does a fantastic job of highlighting social prejudice. Harper travels through different time periods in order to kill these ‘shining girls’, and by doing so, the reader is subjected and thrust into the harsh, sexist or racial criticism that isn’t as prevalent in society today.
Sometimes I found myself having to reread a few pages in the first third of the book when Harper was travelling in and out of different time periods – when he was travelling back to his murders and leaving things at the scene. But this was only until I got the general idea of how his house worked, and how he was travelling back in time. Once I got that, I could follow the story quite easily.
The book ends on an almost ambiguous, especially between Kirby and the detective. I like this, because what Kirby experiences would dramatically affect how she reacts with other people. I recommend this book to people who love reading crime/thriller novels. The science fiction aspect (Harper being able to travel back and forth in time) is but a small aspect of the story, and shouldn’t act as a deterrent to those people who are always like ‘ew science fiction. No thanks’.