ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Our book reviewer Alan Cheuse has been turning the pages of a thriller. It borrows from Stephen King a house with a wormhole that somehow allows for time travel. It re-creates the monstrous chilliness of scenes between a serial killer and his victims a la "The Silence of the Lambs." It could easily have been a pretty derivative novel. But Alan Cheuse says "The Shining Girls," by Cape Town writer Lauren Beukes, manages to turn such borrowing and theft into a success.
ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Beukes' book, set in Chicago and spanning that city's history from the early 1930s to the early '90s, stands as a marvelous narrative feat. And her heroine, the smart and spunky Kirby Mizrachi, is as thrilling to follow as any in recent genre fiction. Kirby first meets the time-traveling, Midwest, low-life serial killer Harper Curtis when she's about 5; and then about 15 years later, as he stalks her along the lakeshore while she's walking her dog - more about this ghastly encounter, in a moment; and then four years after that, as his nemesis in her long pursuit of this incredibly brutal and cunning murderer.
Kirby is the only victim who survives her initial attack. When the killer's knife sinks so deep into the body of her dog - the animal attempts to defend her - that he cannot pull it out in time to finish the murder, the plucky victim, holding her intestines in place, runs off to find help. After a long recovery, Kirby takes an internship in the sports department at the Chicago Sun-Times. There, she makes a plan to catch her assailant, even as he moves back and forth in time and crime, eventually to discover that Kirby has survived.
The killer feels a sharp edge of awareness, Beukes tells us, when he enters the magical house. There, he discovers the names of his victims listed as if in a vision, and he sees that it's his goal to find the girls through different times and places. You will feel that sharp edge of awareness as Lauren Beukes takes us on a frightening journey in time and punishment.
SIEGEL: Alan Cheuse, reviewing Lauren Beukes' new thriller, "The Shining Girls."