The premise of this novel is batshit insane brilliance. A serial killer discovers a way to travel through time. That right there is already enough to make me read it. That he finds his victims at a young age because they shine (to him, because he’s clearly unhinged), and then revisits them as adults to brutally slay them is the icing on the gruesome cake. However, I feel the need to quote Ten Things I Hate About You here. I know you can be overwhelmed and I know you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever be just whelmed?
So Harper darts across decades, strewing female intestines in his wake. Kirby Mazrachi, his intended victim from the early 90’s, refuses to die. Haunted by her horrific brush with death (who wouldn’t be?), Kirby can’t stop looking for him. And that is pretty much it, for the book. How the time travel part of it works is never really explained, but to distract us from this and some seriously flat characterisation, Beukes jumbles the linear narrative, chapter by chapter. This drives me up the wall when Tarantino does it, so I was hardly going to be all “oh look! It’s out of sequence! THAT IS AMAZING”, was I?
There’s something that, for me, just didn’t quite work. I don’t know if it was the structure, the time travel gambit, or the fact that every character (bar one) was varying degrees of unbelievable, unsympathetic or just plain annoying, but my patience began to run thin long before the end of this book. I suppose it didn’t help that the most horrendously annoying character is Kirby. When you find yourself actively wanting your main protagonist to take a knife to the face, then really, it’s game over.
So there we are. Some of the back story on some of the victims is interesting, but several of the murders cause the suspension of disbelief to snap clean in half. I really wanted to love this book, it sounded so gruesomely, brilliantly unusual. But when I was finished I just thought “meh”. Shame.