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When the Stars Go Dark

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Anna Hart is a missing persons detective in San Francisco. When tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet the day she arrives, she learns a local teenage girl has go Anna Hart is a missing persons detective in San Francisco. When tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet the day she arrives, she learns a local teenage girl has gone missing. The crime feels frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna's childhood, when the unsolved murder of a young girl touched Mendocino and changed the community forever. As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with the missing girl, she must accept that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in. Weaving together actual cases of missing persons, trauma theory, and a hint of the metaphysical, this propulsive and deeply affecting novel tells a story of fate, necessary redemption, and what it takes, when the worst happens, to reclaim our lives--and our faith in one another. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife comes a novel of intertwined destinies and heart-wrenching suspense: A detective hiding away from the world. A series of disappearances that reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal?


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Anna Hart is a missing persons detective in San Francisco. When tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet the day she arrives, she learns a local teenage girl has go Anna Hart is a missing persons detective in San Francisco. When tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet the day she arrives, she learns a local teenage girl has gone missing. The crime feels frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna's childhood, when the unsolved murder of a young girl touched Mendocino and changed the community forever. As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with the missing girl, she must accept that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in. Weaving together actual cases of missing persons, trauma theory, and a hint of the metaphysical, this propulsive and deeply affecting novel tells a story of fate, necessary redemption, and what it takes, when the worst happens, to reclaim our lives--and our faith in one another. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife comes a novel of intertwined destinies and heart-wrenching suspense: A detective hiding away from the world. A series of disappearances that reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal?

30 review for When the Stars Go Dark

  1. 5 out of 5

    JanB

    4.5 stars “Every 73 seconds someone in America becomes the victim of sexual assault. Every nine minutes one of those victims is a child. 82% of victims under the age of eighteen are female. The effects of sexual violence can be long lasting and profound.” The story opens in 1993, the year the real- life Polly Klaas was taken from her home at knifepoint. The case drew nationwide attention before cell phones, national data bases, Amber alerts, and crowdsourcing was available to help solve crimes. Th 4.5 stars “Every 73 seconds someone in America becomes the victim of sexual assault. Every nine minutes one of those victims is a child. 82% of victims under the age of eighteen are female. The effects of sexual violence can be long lasting and profound.” The story opens in 1993, the year the real- life Polly Klaas was taken from her home at knifepoint. The case drew nationwide attention before cell phones, national data bases, Amber alerts, and crowdsourcing was available to help solve crimes. There was a rash of abductions of girls in the vicinity during this time frame. It is against this backdrop that Anna, reeling from a personal tragedy, arrives in her hometown of Mendocino, CA. Her childhood friend, Will, who is now the town sheriff, enlists her help in the investigation of a missing teenage girl. Anna is an expert in missing children, a detective who has made it her life’s work to save and find justice for young victims. Her own life has been filled with trauma, and she is obsessed in finding redemption through helping children. Anna is a complex person and, through her, the reader learns a lot about trauma, healing, the suffering of families, the psychological profiles of victims and predators, and the lasting psychological damage to survivors. Factual details are woven into the narrative. Fans of true crime, like me, will find these sections most insightful. As the mother of a daughter, and Nana to three very young granddaughters, it’s not always comfortable reading, but it’s imperative that I educate myself. There are many dimensions and themes in this story, all blended seamlessly: of the importance of community, of pain and loss, but also healing, forgiveness and peace. This is a character-driven slow burn, one that forces the reader to slow down to savor the writing. It takes a bit of patience in the beginning. The natural world in the woods and forest, cliffs and beaches surrounding Mendocino play an important part of the story. Anna’s foster father taught her much, and she draws on those instincts when it’s a matter of life and death. I’m not usually one for descriptive writing, but in this case found the descriptions beautiful and atmospheric. This was another terrific buddy read with my friend Marialyce, one we both found very insightful. We’ve both read and enjoyed the author’s historical fiction books, and with this book, she has proven herself capable of crossing genres into mystery/thrillers. We both appreciated the afterword, where we learn this story was inspired by events in the author’s life. Note that despite such a dark subject, there are no graphic descriptions of abuse or violence toward children in these pages. (Minor spoiler alert, but important for animal lovers to know: the dog does not die!) * I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley. All opinions are my own. * Publication date April 13, 2121 by Ballantine Books

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    I haven’t read so lyrical words written in full of intensity in such a powerful, moving, thought provoking tone! I literally find myself trapped inside the mind of heroine and I didn’t want to leave there even it hurt me a lot! Inner poet of Ms. McLane created a tormented but a decent fighter, remarkable heroine: Anna Hart who is specialized to find missing people, dedicated San Francisco detective. After tragedy hit harder, for gathering the shattering life pieces,she decides to go to back to s I haven’t read so lyrical words written in full of intensity in such a powerful, moving, thought provoking tone! I literally find myself trapped inside the mind of heroine and I didn’t want to leave there even it hurt me a lot! Inner poet of Ms. McLane created a tormented but a decent fighter, remarkable heroine: Anna Hart who is specialized to find missing people, dedicated San Francisco detective. After tragedy hit harder, for gathering the shattering life pieces,she decides to go to back to small hometown Mendocino where she grew with her foster parents who help her become the person she is today! But as like her unfinished business about a missing girl who traumatized her for years, another 15 years old Polly Klaas : missing girl case occurs at the very same place, showing quite resemblances with the past missing girl case that haunted her. Anna is so exhausted, broken, hurt and she knows deep in heart this case will be more overwhelming that she can get through but she cannot disappoint the broken hearted mother who is looking for her lost girl. She eventually teams up with town’s sheriff Will who is also close childhood friend of hers, to conduct their investigation. With the help intuition and experienced instincts of Anna, they are few steps ahead of FBI to solve the crime. With the growing interest of media attention to the case, both childhood friends dig out more gruesome facts, getting closer to the final revelation. After reading the disturbing statistical facts the author shared about sexual assaults of young women, the story disturbs you more and you start to look from the different angle to those brutal realities of life! I honestly have a little hard time at the beginning of the book even though I enjoyed the unique writing style of the author. Especially getting lost in heroine’s struggling emotional thoughts filled with pain and grief was a little slow burn and compelling start to a dark, heart wrenching crime story. I liked those parts but they also depressed me a lot. I wanted to feel the excitement of starting a new action packed mystery which is dragging you to the different streets of criminal worlds but as soon as the investigation process starts and Anna suited up to work with Will, the rhythm of the story increased higher, hooking me up, I didn’t want to put it down! Overall: the author is brilliant and she proved us she can choose to write different genres and she can nail all of them! This book is more meaningful project because there are so many parallel things from her real life with the character she created and she is a quite great researcher. So I’m proudly giving my four dark, gruesome, intense, well- crafted four stars! Special thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group/ Ballantine for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest thoughts.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    A town like this feels so safe and apart from the outside world. You start to wonder if it’s dangerous.” “The fairy tale of it, you mean?” “Right. False security. You stop looking over your shoulder, because the picture feels real. Nothing bad can happen when there’s a moat around the whole town, right? Battlements. Guards at the gate. But the dragon shows up anyway.” -------------------------------------- “These are my obsessions,” Paula McLain said. “How do we survive the unsurvivable? How d A town like this feels so safe and apart from the outside world. You start to wonder if it’s dangerous.” “The fairy tale of it, you mean?” “Right. False security. You stop looking over your shoulder, because the picture feels real. Nothing bad can happen when there’s a moat around the whole town, right? Battlements. Guards at the gate. But the dragon shows up anyway.” -------------------------------------- “These are my obsessions,” Paula McLain said. “How do we survive the unsurvivable? How do we climb off the table as a victim? How did we get there in the first place?” - from the NY Times Personal articleSan Francisco Detective Anna Louise Hart has problems of her own. Something terrible has happened to her child. Her husband is not eager to see her. Needing to get away, she heads north to a place she sees as a refuge of sorts, Mendocino, the place where, after a succession of bad experiences, she had finally been taken in as a foster by a warm, supportive couple. Memories abound, marked by the presence of an enigmatic sculpture in the middle of town. Above the roofline of the Masonic Hall and against a gauzy sky, the figures of Time and the Maiden stand sharp and white, the most iconic thing in the village. A bearded, elderly figure with wings and a scythe, braiding the hair of a girl standing before him. Her head bowed over a book resting on a broken column, an acacia branch in one of her hands, an urn in the other, and an hourglass near her feet—each object an enigmatic symbol in a larger puzzle. The whole carving like a mystery in plain sight. Time and the Maiden - image from Serendipity Patchwork Almost immediately I knew the story had to be set in Mendocino—a small coastal town in Northern California where I spent time in my twenties—and that the time frame of the narrative had to be pre-DNA, pre-cellphone, before the Internet had exploded and CSI had lay people thinking they could solve a murder with their laptop. - from the Author’s NoteHart’s work in San Francisco had centered on finding lost children. She was in a special unit for this. It’s the sort of work that leads one to sacrifice other aspects of one’s life. I pictured a missing persons expert obsessed with trying to save a missing girl and also struggling to make peace with her past. And straight away, after renting an off-the-grid cabin several miles outside of town, reconnecting with an old friend who is now the sheriff, saying Hi to some other folks and places from her days there as a kid, a local girl, the daughter of a famous actress, vanishes. Having some expertise in the field, Anna offers to help, and the game is afoot. Paula McLain - image from Writers Write …when she started digging into the research, she realized that there had been real-life abductions in California at that time — including the kidnapping of 12-year-old Polly Klaas from her Petaluma bedroom. McLain weaves Klaas’s tragic story into the novel, reminding the reader of yet another young woman who never had a chance to shine. - from the NY Times Personal interviewIn addition to Polly, McLain incorporated into her story several real-world disappeared girls, as points of reference. She does not go into their characters much beyond rough descriptions. But this does let us know that the fictional tale she presents has a very real flesh-and-blood basis, the time she portrays presenting more peril than usual. And she does not stop there in paralleling the real and the created. Sexual abuse of children is a focus, as is coping with being in the foster care system. These are experiences with which McLain is painfully familiar. In the Times article noted in EXTRA STUFF, Why I Took a Vow of Celibacy, she writes about her abuse as a foster kid. Some nights nothing happened. Other nights I would wake to a shape in the doorway, the husband’s inky silhouette. And then I would disappear inside myself, barely breathing, frozen. I vanished so expertly that I wasn’t actually in my body any longer as he peeled me away from my sister. I didn’t make a sound. It would have been easy to make this a total downer of a story, but McLain points out some of the bright sides as well. Anna recalls with great love the supportive foster family she had lived with in Mendocino, and shows how a community can come together to try to help each other, in this case reflecting the real-world effort made to find Polly Klaas when she was abducted. McLain’s descriptions border on the transcendental at times, both lyrically beautiful, and evocative of underlying story content. They reminded me of the poetic magnificence (as well as the issues taken on) of Rene Denfeld. So, it seemed fitting that in the acknowledgments, Denfeld is listed among authors whose work inspired her. Above the cloud line, an eerie yellow sphere is rising. It’s the moon, gigantic and overstuffed, the color of lemonade. I can’t stop watching it roll higher and higher, saturated with brightness, like a wound. Or like a door lit entirely by pain. Uh oh. The eeriness of the environment resonates throughout the novel, but it is also clear that Anna has an appreciation for nature, a feeling of connection, gaining a sense of comfort from it, even though it can seem very dark at times. Firs and pines and Sitka spruce thicken around me, pushing in from all directions, black-tipped fairy-tale trees that knit shadows out of nothing, night out of day—as if they’ve stolen all the light and hidden it somewhere. God, but I’ve missed them. And building on nature’s challenge, she sees hope in people’s ability to contend with extreme and persistent difficulties. “Krummholz” is the word for this kind of vegetation I remember from one of Hap’s [her beloved foster father] lessons, a German term that means “bent wood.” Over many decades, hard weather has sculpted the trees into grotesque shapes. The salt-rich north wind kills the tips of the branches, forcing them to dip and twist, swooping toward the ground instead of the sky. They’re a living diagram of adaptation, of nature’s intelligence and resilience. They shouldn’t be able to keep growing this way, and yet they do. She adds some lovely noir content and cadences, the sort one might expect from a female continental op, substituting a chemical solution for the usual flask, or lower desk drawer fifth. I zipped myself into a dress I couldn’t feel, so high on Ativan it could have been made of knives. Fairy tales come in for several mentions, not in a comforting way. There be monsters here. Maps from the book The story is intriguing and keeps one eager to read more. What happened with Cameron, the primary missing girl, an adoptee? Was she abducted? Had she been lured away? Had she been abused? Given the number of girls gone missing, is there a serial killer working the area? Clues are followed, each bit leading to new suspicions, whether dead-ending or propelling the investigation. There is tension between the investigating partners, as one might expect. The book clicks along at a good pace, and delivers the goods. There were some elements that interfered at times, though. Anna comes on a seemingly stray pooch who becomes a valued ally. Except it seemed that the dog was in and out, here, then not here, as if the notion of a canine companion appealed (the dog is given the name of McLain’s real-life furry friend), but did not seem fully integrated into the story. More a device than a character. In another instance Anna is going about the business of investigating a possible abduction or worse, with several local suspects, and this San Francisco detective is NOT PACKING! This is like the monster movie scene in which the small child runs back toward the room where the creature was last seen to retrieve a cherished stuffy. Really? If you’re gonna do that, at least offer up a satisfactory preparatory explanation. Did I miss this somewhere? A flashlight goes dark at a critical moment – puh-leez! And a character appears at a particularly opportune moment to offer crucial assistance. Sure, whatever. But don’t let the occasional eye-roll distract from the overall wonderfulness of the book. In addition to keeping your blood pressure at an unhealthy level, McLain offers up some real-world payload in educating us about the plague of sexual abuse of children, particularly the potential perils of foster care, and how the afflicted are damaged in more than just physical ways. She points out the sometimes complex nature of abductions, and how pain can travel down through generations. You will never think of the bat signal the same way again. The stars may certainly go dark for those on the receiving end of these societal horrors, but in both keeping us entranced and filling us with new intel and perspectives, Paula McLain shines very brightly indeed. You know, we don’t always understand what we’re living inside of, or how it will matter. We can guess all we want and prepare, too, but we never know how it’s going to turn out. Review posted – April 9. 2021 Publication date – April 13, 2021 I received a digital ARE from Ballantine Books through NetGalley in return for an honest review. =============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, FB, and Instagram pages From the bio on McLain’s site:Paula McLain was born in Fresno, California in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System, moving in and out of various foster homes for the next fourteen years. When she aged out of the system, she supported herself by working as a nurses aid in a convalescent hospital, a pizza delivery girl, an auto-plant worker, a cocktail waitress–before discovering she could (and very much wanted to) write. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996. She is the author of The Paris Wife…an international bestseller…She is also the author of two collections of poetry; a memoir, Like Family, Growing up in Other People’s Houses; and a first novel, A Ticket to Ride. She lives with her family in Cleveland.Interview -----NY Times – April 3, 2021 - Paula McLain Wrote a Thriller — and This Time, It’s Personal by Elisabeth Egan Items of Interest from the author ----- There is a list of links to other writing on her site -----NY Times – 3/12/2021 - Why I Took a Vow of Celibacy Items of Interest -----Book Club Kit -----Rainer Maria Rilke - I Am Much Too Alone in This World, Yet Not Alone - A line from this poem turns up in Chapter 22 -----The Reid Technique - of police interrogation -noted in Chapter 24 -----The Polly Klaas Foundation Songs/Music -----Bob Seger - Against the Wind - In chapter 34, Anna hears this on her car radio -----The Little Mermaid - Under the Sea referenced in chapter 46

  4. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    rounding up because, even though this was probably closer to 3 stars in terms of overall reading experience, i really enjoy when crime fiction includes real life cases. i find it absolutely fascinating. i have never heard of polly klaas, but it was apparently a pretty big story in the 90s. but while i thought the actual crime/mystery components and plot really interesting, the writing and MC fell very flat for me. i just wasnt connecting with the narrative style and anna wasnt particularly enjoy rounding up because, even though this was probably closer to 3 stars in terms of overall reading experience, i really enjoy when crime fiction includes real life cases. i find it absolutely fascinating. i have never heard of polly klaas, but it was apparently a pretty big story in the 90s. but while i thought the actual crime/mystery components and plot really interesting, the writing and MC fell very flat for me. i just wasnt connecting with the narrative style and anna wasnt particularly enjoyable to read about. but the pacing is fast, so that (plus the content) helped me stick with it. so while i appreciate that this story introduced me to a true crime case that i hadnt previously known about, this book isnt really one that i will be thinking about or remember for years to come. ↠ 3.5 stars

  5. 4 out of 5

    megs_bookrack

    Wracked with grief after a personal tragedy, Missing Persons Detective, Anna Hart, flees from her regular life in San Francisco in order to give herself space to heal. She heads back to Mendocino, in Northern California, where she grew up with her loving foster parents. Once there, she rents a modest cabin and actually ends up taking in a new canine companion, who she names, Cricket. Obviously. this enhanced my enjoyment of the story 10-fold. ((Just kidding. Kind of, not really.)) Anna also reunites Wracked with grief after a personal tragedy, Missing Persons Detective, Anna Hart, flees from her regular life in San Francisco in order to give herself space to heal. She heads back to Mendocino, in Northern California, where she grew up with her loving foster parents. Once there, she rents a modest cabin and actually ends up taking in a new canine companion, who she names, Cricket. Obviously. this enhanced my enjoyment of the story 10-fold. ((Just kidding. Kind of, not really.)) Anna also reunites with her childhood friend, Will, who happens to now be the local Sheriff. Knowing how successful Anna has been in her career, Will enlists her help with assisting him finding a teenage girl, Cameron, who has recently gone missing. This new investigation is a good distraction from Anna's own tragedy, but her involvement means more to her than that. She quickly becomes engrossed in the case. Having survived very significant childhood trauma herself, Anna has dedicated her life to helping other children and survivors. As stressful as it can often be, it's her calling. We watch the investigation unfold, as Will and Anna work together to try to find out what happened to Cameron. Maybe they can get to her before it's too late. They end up tying her case to that of other missing girls in the area and the intensity definitely begins to build from there. This is a great story. It's subtle, dark and heart-wrenching. It really reminded me a lot of Rene Denfeld's, The Child Finder and I mean that as a heavy compliment. It's quite nuanced, more than your average book in this genre, which I appreciated so much. McLain packed a lot in. I loved the investigatory elements and learning more about Anna's background as a character; how her early life lead her to the point where she is at. Overall, this story has good action, a compelling mystery, layered, well-established characters and a satisfying conclusion. There were some areas that felt a little slow for me, but that didn't overshadow any of the other fantastically done elements. Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and hope this author writes more in this genre!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    No Spoilers!!! Paula McLain fans will recognize her luscious writing ...it’s gorgeous. Her descriptions are irresistible, and photogenically tantalizing. Unlike Paula’s past work: —Historical Fiction— She brings us a heartfelt mysterious crime novel...mixed with fiction stories of missing girls - placing the time period alongside the true crime story of Polly Hannah Klass. Anna Hart, protagonist, had my heart. We don’t understand her full story right away — other than we know her husband asked he No Spoilers!!! Paula McLain fans will recognize her luscious writing ...it’s gorgeous. Her descriptions are irresistible, and photogenically tantalizing. Unlike Paula’s past work: —Historical Fiction— She brings us a heartfelt mysterious crime novel...mixed with fiction stories of missing girls - placing the time period alongside the true crime story of Polly Hannah Klass. Anna Hart, protagonist, had my heart. We don’t understand her full story right away — other than we know her husband asked her to leave. Anna’s entire life was heavy with loss. The dark abyss of her work-[detective]-connected to everything in her own personal life. After driving about 5 miles, the road turned from asphalt to packed dirt and gravel. Firs and pines and Sitka spruce trees -a trapping cabin — a cedar cottage— “It looks like a place where a hermit might live, like an island in the trees, a cave to disappear in. It’s perfect”. Anna Hart was moving into a tiny threadbare cabin in the woods of Mendocino.... an area she was very familiar with. She graduated from Mendocino High in the year of 1972, the year that 15-year-old Jenny Ledford disappeared. We will be introduced to the community of characters from the days Anna lived in Mendocino. Learn about Anna’s growing life — Present day 1993. The same year of the Polly Klass tragedy. Convicted killers, torturers, psychopaths, sociopaths, pedophiles, sexual sadists——trying to understand the criminal mind in a systemized way —their criminal psyche— how and why they selected certain victims, what their triggers were, their violent fantasies— how those brutal killers thought and what they felt around all aspects of what they’d done— the depth of their fixation on their warped minds—was so disturbing to Anna—the crimes began to feel like sick plots in a movie—not real life. Anna got so involved in her cases—caring so much for the victims— trying to understand their side of the story, but never getting the whole picture..... Anna’s dedication made her an excellent detective, ( she lived and breathed her cases), but it was also ruining her personal life. She had nightmares constantly, and woke up in the middle of the night feeling as if her whole body was buzzing, set on high alert. Anna was never not thinking about a case— trying to crack an interview, or tease out a complex lead, or canvassing witnesses in her mind. She had no control over her obsessiveness. “The Mendocino Woodlands stretches over seven hundred square acres of reserve land, and is as black in the current storm as an uncharted planet”. Anna knew the territory— if a young girl was lost in those woods—Anna believed she could find her. The obsession of Anna trying to save missing girls was tied to her past —she was trying find solace- experience inner peace—forgive herself from her own grief, loss, and guilt. Paula McLain shared in her acknowledgments that she didn’t sleep well for weeks and months when she was researching the Polly Klass case and others. Thinking about the profound suffering of the victims and their families crept into her dreams. Boy... I remember the Polly Klass case like yesterday myself. I remember seeing her father, Marc Klass on the news. I remember when he started the ‘Polly Klass Foundation’, a nonprofit organization that continues to work with thousands of families, law-enforcement officers, and volunteer workers to help find missing children. From time to time I get Amber Alert messages on my iPhone. Always sad. I always think of Polly Klass.... ( always). I can still see her beautiful smiling face in my mind today. Paula McCain shared something very personal in her acknowledgments— about ‘why’ she was drawn to write this book—this particular story.... ( my heart ached with love for Paula - but I rather not share the details), Instead I’ll share an excerpt from her that I paused, reflected, and related to: “I believe that our sorrow connects us, yes, and that it can also be the source of our power as well as our empathy”. “To the fern forest, dripping with fog, to the bluffs above the roaring Pacific, to the cabin in the deep dark woods, and into the very heart of this book”..... “When The Stars Go Dark”, is the most intimate and personal book Paula McLain has written. Blessings Paula. Thank you!!! And.... thank you, Netgalley, and Random House Publishing Group

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mischenko

    Anna's an experienced detective specializing in cases involving missing people--specifically children. After suffering a family tragedy in San Francisco, Anna leaves for the coastal community of Mendocino, where she grew up, to deal with her emotions and get back on her feet. She’s coping with trauma from recent events and her childhood and hopes to find a way to heal so she can return to her family. While in Mendocino, she partners with an old friend and decides to take on a case involving a mi Anna's an experienced detective specializing in cases involving missing people--specifically children. After suffering a family tragedy in San Francisco, Anna leaves for the coastal community of Mendocino, where she grew up, to deal with her emotions and get back on her feet. She’s coping with trauma from recent events and her childhood and hopes to find a way to heal so she can return to her family. While in Mendocino, she partners with an old friend and decides to take on a case involving a missing young girl. This could be exactly what Anna needs to break free and finally heal from her traumatic past. This is my first read by Paula McLain, and it didn’t disappoint. She created an interesting heroine who appears to have a broken interior, and you can feel her pain. Anna's extremely complex, passionate about her work, and practically obsessive at times. During earlier chapters, I kept asking myself: what happened to her? Emotions were strongest for me during flashbacks of her past relationship with Hap. It's her past that fully engaged and connected me with this story. This book explores how past traumas have the power to follow you through life, but it also includes themes of family, forgiveness, community, and hope. It was interesting to read the author's note and discover that some of the complexities of Anna’s character connect with the author’s past as well. Thriller, mystery, crime, suspense—call it what you will, but for me, this book had a little bit of everything. This wasn’t a nail-biting thriller for me but more of a slower-paced, compelling suspense/mystery that forced me to continue turning the pages. The gradual progression was almost too slow for me, but it was perfectly balanced with Anna’s past thanks to anecdotal snippets the author wove into the story. Several happenings and mysteries kept me guessing until the end. Waiting for Anna’s story was frustrating, but it's what made this story more of a page-turner for me. This book is written beautifully with lyrical prose that pulled me in from the very first page. The descriptions are wonderful, creating an atmospheric story that makes you want to experience the beauties of Mendocino yourself. Certain content might be difficult for some readers because it involves crimes against children, but I don't consider it too disturbing. Don’t get me wrong--these crimes are every parent’s nightmare, but they aren't highly detailed, and they're short-lived. It actually compelled me to get online and learn more about the true crimes that took place. The slower parts in the story led me to believe it might get too drawn out, but overall, this turned out to be a good read. I'm thrilled that the whodunit wasn't easy to figure out. I'll definitely be checking out some of Paula McLain's older books in the future. 4**** I'd like to thank NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for sharing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. You can also see this [email protected]

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kerrin P

    When I saw that one of my favorite historical fiction authors, Paula McLain, (The Paris Wife, Circling The Sun, and Love and Ruin) had written a police detective crime novel, I jumped at the chance to read it. When The Stars Go Dark does not disappoint. Anna Hart is a San Francisco police detective working with an initiative called Project Searchlight that focuses on crimes against children, including sexual abuse, abduction, and murder. Anna is extremely devoted to her job, at the expense of her When I saw that one of my favorite historical fiction authors, Paula McLain, (The Paris Wife, Circling The Sun, and Love and Ruin) had written a police detective crime novel, I jumped at the chance to read it. When The Stars Go Dark does not disappoint. Anna Hart is a San Francisco police detective working with an initiative called Project Searchlight that focuses on crimes against children, including sexual abuse, abduction, and murder. Anna is extremely devoted to her job, at the expense of her family life. After a tragedy strikes, her husband requests that she leave for a while. Anna heads to the last place she called home, Mendocino, California. She lived there with a loving foster family between the ages of 8 -18. During that time a friend of Anna's is murdered. The mystery was never solved. Anna arrives in Mendocino on September 15, 1993, the same day a fifteen-year-old girl is reported missing. Cameron Curtis is the adopted daughter of a retired movie star and a movie producer. Another local mother gets a call from a psychic who tells her she believes her daughter, Shannan, is dead. Finally worried, the mother reports that Shannan hasn’t been seen since June. Anna’s former high school friend, Will Flood, is now the sheriff, with limited support staff. Having nothing else to do, Anna helps him with the investigation to find Cameron. After talking to the psychic, she also begins to search for Shannan. On October 1, 1993, Polly Klaas is abducted during a slumber party in nearby Petaluma. It is interesting how the author is able to weave together this real-life murder with the fictional story. While Polly’s case gathers national attention, the Curtis family has tried to keep their daughter’s case out of the news. Anna must convince them to see the benefit of having community support with the search for Cameron. Anna is a very complex woman. She is dealing with her own demons of being neglected as a child, the guilt of being separated from her half-siblings, the deaths of her foster parents, and her recent family tragedy. She skillfully uses her own upbringing, police training, and a little help and encouragement from the psychic to solve the crimes involving Cameron and Shannan. Afterward, she must decide whether to work on the Polly Klaas investigation or to go home and face the issues with her husband. Before she leaves, Sheriff Flood encourages her to come back to work with him on other missing children cases. Perhaps this is the first in a series?? UPDATE: On Paula McLain's Goodreads page she answered a reader's question about a sequel as follows: "I DO have a storyline in my mind for Anna and Mendocino. Anything can happen with the creative process, so knock wood--buy maybe so!!" 4 plus-Stars. I read the Kindle edition which is 384 pages. The book is expected to be published on April 13th, 2021. Thanks to the awesome folks at Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Books and NetGalley for my advanced reader copy.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Paula McLain draws the spotlight upon her main character, Detective Anna Hart. Wife, mother, and friend. But when those stars do go dark for her, Anna realizes that she has truly lost her way. With no other recourse, she leaves San Francisco unwillingly to seek solace in the one place that reflects tiny roots from her past. Anna has driven hours to arrive in Mendocino in Northern California. Her eyes shift from the new to the old familiar. She rents a cabin in the woods that boasts little in the Paula McLain draws the spotlight upon her main character, Detective Anna Hart. Wife, mother, and friend. But when those stars do go dark for her, Anna realizes that she has truly lost her way. With no other recourse, she leaves San Francisco unwillingly to seek solace in the one place that reflects tiny roots from her past. Anna has driven hours to arrive in Mendocino in Northern California. Her eyes shift from the new to the old familiar. She rents a cabin in the woods that boasts little in the way of amenities. Anna has no idea just how long her stay will be and how long it will take for her to rise to the surface. Her heart exists only in the darkness. And in that darkness is where she will cocoon. But the woods begin to call out to her. Anna starts hiking to the point of exhaution. And each day her mind takes in the familiarity of the trails. She takes a trip into town to restock supplies and comes upon an old friend. Will Flood has become the sheriff after his father's retirement. She and Will knew each other as children. Will shares with Anna his latest case of an abducted teenage girl. It brings back memories of a friend of their's who went missing years ago. Anna weighs the cost of involvement here, but recovering lost/abducted children is her line of work in Project Searchlight. Without hesitation, Anna wishes to remain anonymous, but she offers to assist Will who gladly accepts. When the Stars Go Dark will spread out in a panorama of snapshots involving the families, friends, and the teams of police and FBI that it takes to work the case of an abducted individual. And in doing so, it will awaken suppressed memories that belong to Anna herself. McLain will slowly draw back the curtain revealing more and more about Anna and her past. Her dedication to her work will force her to set aside her own trauma. At least for a while...... When the Stars Go Dark is a fine depiction of the stamina and perserverance embedded in the human heart. Through the character of Anna, we'll come to find that the rawness of tragedy forms as a beacon of relatability seen in the eyes of those who share its aftermath. I would hope that Paula McLain may consider bringing back Anna in a future offering. Multi-faceted individuals are the keepers. I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Random House (Ballantine Books) and to Paula McLain for the opportunity.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Alan

    THIS BOOK IS FABULOUS. I love when I read a novel told from the perspective of someone who works in law enforcement and I find the narrator so convincing that I wonder if the author had a career as a detective before becoming a novelist. When the Stars Go Dark is much better written than many books in the genre. The characters and their histories are believably complex and wonderful. Detective Anna Hart is recovering physically and mentally from a horrible tragedy and returns to the small town THIS BOOK IS FABULOUS. I love when I read a novel told from the perspective of someone who works in law enforcement and I find the narrator so convincing that I wonder if the author had a career as a detective before becoming a novelist. When the Stars Go Dark is much better written than many books in the genre. The characters and their histories are believably complex and wonderful. Detective Anna Hart is recovering physically and mentally from a horrible tragedy and returns to the small town where she was raised by foster parents, thinking this will get her away from her job and troubled marriage to help her recover. Instead, she finds herself doing the same work she’s actually paid to do, only now she’s volunteering to help her friend from high school, Will, who is now the town sheriff. Soon after Anna returns to Mendocino, she learns about a 15-year-old girl who is missing. Cameron is the adopted daughter of a retired but still famous actress and her husband. Other girls in the area have gone missing in the area as well, but their ages and stories are a little different. Still, there might be some connection. Thanks so much to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book and for introducing me to a new-to-me author. This novel RELEASES APRIL 13, 2021.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    This is a story that clutches at your heart and won’t let go. I knew from the start this one was going to be painful, and it was. So painful to watch Anna Hart, a San Francisco missing persons detective, try to come to grip with the recent tragedy in her life while reconciling the traumas of her early life. She has fled to Mendocino, the only place she ever felt safe and at home to lick her wounds. Once there, she is thrown into the case of another missing local teen. She is compelled to help he This is a story that clutches at your heart and won’t let go. I knew from the start this one was going to be painful, and it was. So painful to watch Anna Hart, a San Francisco missing persons detective, try to come to grip with the recent tragedy in her life while reconciling the traumas of her early life. She has fled to Mendocino, the only place she ever felt safe and at home to lick her wounds. Once there, she is thrown into the case of another missing local teen. She is compelled to help her childhood friend, Sheriff Will Flood, solve the case and can’t help comparing it to the case of their missing childhood friend who was murdered twenty years ago. There was so much beauty in reading about Anna and her now-deceased foster parents who gave her something good in her life. Now she has come back to Mendocino to heal, and their spirits are speaking to her daily. The downside is that this is a dark story about child kidnapping, torture, and abuse. It is written to coincide with the Polly Klaas kidnapping in 1993, which I found upsetting. I must admit I guessed who the bad guy was early on, but it did not distract from my enjoyment of the story. Yes, a dark, twisty tale, but also one of forgiveness and letting go. I thank the publisher, Ballantine Books, and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book. I gave it four stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ceecee

    4+ stars After a personal tragedy Detective Anna Hart is asked by her husband Brendan to leave home in order to give him the thinking space he needs. She heads to Mendocino, Northern California where she had been happily fostered as a girl by Hap and Eden Strater. She meets up with Sheriff Will Flood an old friend and quickly immerses herself in the case of Cameron Curtis, 15, who is missing. The net spreads wide in this investigation and has similarities with other missing girl cases. The year 4+ stars After a personal tragedy Detective Anna Hart is asked by her husband Brendan to leave home in order to give him the thinking space he needs. She heads to Mendocino, Northern California where she had been happily fostered as a girl by Hap and Eden Strater. She meets up with Sheriff Will Flood an old friend and quickly immerses herself in the case of Cameron Curtis, 15, who is missing. The net spreads wide in this investigation and has similarities with other missing girl cases. The year is 1993 so predates much that forces can use in present day investigations. This is a well written novel with some beautiful descriptions, you can visualise the people and places, hear the yipping coyote, see the twisted krummholz of the trees and hear the roar of the ocean. The characterisation is very strong especially of Anna. She is fascinatingly complex and flawed as we learn through the interweaving narrative of past and present. The baggage she carries until the successful placement with the Straters is one she will always carry and is a driving force behind her work in missing persons. She does have lone wolf maverick tendencies but her intuition often leads to breaks in cases. Mendocino is vividly captured, it’s full of ghosts, signs, memories and clues which Anna has to listen to in this collision between the past and present. The plot unfolds extremely well, the writing is smooth and fluid, it goes pretty deep in places examining backgrounds that are disturbing and sad. What emerges is an intense, dark and very powerful novel, it’s heartbreaking in places as you view the families of the abducted and witness their trauma. It also looks at the impact on those that uphold the law and how they hold it together during distressing investigations which is a good angle in the storytelling. The setting in Northern California allows for some very atmospheric and suspenseful scenes. Overall, this is a shocking tale with disturbing elements but the quality of the writing means it’s handled as sensitively as possible. I like the inclusion of the real life case of Polly Klaas which features prominently. I definitely want to read more by Paula McLain. With thanks to NetGalley and One World Publications, Point Blank for the arc in return for an honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I've always wanted to read a Paula McLain book, but never took the opportunity. When I saw the summary (and cover), I knew that this needed to be the first one. I was rewarded for this because absolutely everything worked for me. Tackling pretty dark topics, this book never veered into over sensationalizing details for shock value, (which sometimes is something about thrillers I don't like). I much prefer a more nuanced take and that is exactly what we were handed with Ms. McLain's first foray i I've always wanted to read a Paula McLain book, but never took the opportunity. When I saw the summary (and cover), I knew that this needed to be the first one. I was rewarded for this because absolutely everything worked for me. Tackling pretty dark topics, this book never veered into over sensationalizing details for shock value, (which sometimes is something about thrillers I don't like). I much prefer a more nuanced take and that is exactly what we were handed with Ms. McLain's first foray into the mystery genre. Her very successful literary mystery was very well written and when you read the author's note you find out just how personal it was to her. I could not imagine this story being told in more capable hands. I tend to read books any opportunity I can. Since I had the Netgalley widget, I decided to use this as a book I read on my elliptical. It took me so long to read because I only exercise for about ten minutes a night and throughout my time reading it in the short spurts that I did, I never once felt bored or uninterested. (Chapters were short and provided great ending points - almost as if she knew this was how I would read this book and made it easier to consume for me personally.) Sometimes, I find that short chapters can break up the flow of the book and make things seem choppy. Not here. I think the best advice I can give if you are considering whether to read this is to go in knowing that this is NOT a thriller. The book explores the lives of the characters while simultaneously working through a crime being solved. I hope that Ms. McLain makes a foray into this genre again because I will be first in line to read it! Thank you so much to Random House Ballantine Books, Netgalley and Paula McLain for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. Review Date: 04/09/21 Publication Date: 04/13/21

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rene Denfeld

    This isn't just a brilliant, well-plotted book, it is a very brave one too. McLain unflinchingly examines some tough issues, and treats victims with tenderness and decency. It's a novel that feels intensely personal as well as universal. Highly recommend. This isn't just a brilliant, well-plotted book, it is a very brave one too. McLain unflinchingly examines some tough issues, and treats victims with tenderness and decency. It's a novel that feels intensely personal as well as universal. Highly recommend.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shamashtika

    When The Stars Go Dark By Paula McLain RATING: 4.5/5 STARS “With serial violent offenders, who they come to target is a crucial piece of understanding why" An eye-opening narrative mixed with heartbreaking facts about children finding themselves in predatory hand...a parent's worst nightmare. The story opens with a 15-year old girl named Cameron who is missing under suspicious circumstances. The plot is essentially the lead detective following various leads and her instincts with a fierce determina When The Stars Go Dark By Paula McLain RATING: 4.5/5 STARS “With serial violent offenders, who they come to target is a crucial piece of understanding why" An eye-opening narrative mixed with heartbreaking facts about children finding themselves in predatory hand...a parent's worst nightmare. The story opens with a 15-year old girl named Cameron who is missing under suspicious circumstances. The plot is essentially the lead detective following various leads and her instincts with a fierce determination to find Cameron. The main narrative is set in a real-life town and showcases real-life child sexual predator cases. The way the story was written made me question if what I was reading was real or fake. I highly recommend everyone to read this book just so they can educate themselves about the darker side of human nature. Reading about individuals who are child predators, their motives, and HOW they become a predator was incredibly interesting and important. There were so many moments where I got the chills seeing how predators and pedophiles can target, lure and kill children for their twisted purposes. Everyone is born innocent, but somewhere along the way, under certain situations, people become the darkest version of themselves. This book does a phenomenal job describing how this may come to be. Also, another highlight was how this story delivered the impact of the hardships and struggles of child sexual abuse victims and their families face without being explicit and/or descriptive. Best realistic fiction book I’ve read!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Having read and enjoyed Paula McLain's Circling the sun, I was glad to get a chance to read this new work. This one is a heartbreaker though. Anna Hart is a missing persons detective in San Francisco. She had a horrible tragedy in her life which has caused issues between Anna and her husband Brendan. Anna flees to her adoptive parents hometown of Mendocino to try to get her life together. But once there she gets drawn into a case of a missing 15 year old girl with an old friend from childhood, W Having read and enjoyed Paula McLain's Circling the sun, I was glad to get a chance to read this new work. This one is a heartbreaker though. Anna Hart is a missing persons detective in San Francisco. She had a horrible tragedy in her life which has caused issues between Anna and her husband Brendan. Anna flees to her adoptive parents hometown of Mendocino to try to get her life together. But once there she gets drawn into a case of a missing 15 year old girl with an old friend from childhood, Will, who is now the Sheriff in town. Then they find there are two other girls who have gone missing in the area recently. Anna throws her entire focus into solving this case. This isn't really a typical police procedural. The case is steered more by Anna's gut feelings based on her own life experiences as well as her years of experience in locating missing persons. It is very intense and looks deeply at feelings and emotions, triggers and responses. The book is a mix of facts drawn from missing persons cases, including the well-known Polly Klass case, and fictional events. It is well written and somewhat atmospheric in nature. It is told only from Anna Hart's point of view and her forte is dealing with people with a great degree of sensitivity and care. I liked the descriptions of the terrain in Northern California. I loved the psychic character - she seemed such a warm and unassuming person. Thanks to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine through Netgalley for an advance copy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, Sweetreads Box picks the best books!! This was my first Paula McLain book and will not be my last. Her writing is really beautiful. After a personal tragedy, missing persons detective, Anna Hart is taking time away from her life and her job. She has returned to her hometown of Mendocino, a place that once brought her much happiness. A place she hopes can mend her broken heart. But before Anna has time to settle in she learns of a missing teenage girl. A I've said it before and I'll say it again, Sweetreads Box picks the best books!! This was my first Paula McLain book and will not be my last. Her writing is really beautiful. After a personal tragedy, missing persons detective, Anna Hart is taking time away from her life and her job. She has returned to her hometown of Mendocino, a place that once brought her much happiness. A place she hopes can mend her broken heart. But before Anna has time to settle in she learns of a missing teenage girl. At the request of an old friend, Will, who is now the town's sheriff, the two come together to find answers in hopes of finding the missing girl. This is a heavy read. It's complex and raw with factual details woven into the narrative. The characters are well written, damaged and flawed. You definitely get a sense for who they are individually. The story tackles some pretty dark topics but without the need of shock value which I appreciated. Overall this was a very strong read! I hope so much to see Anna, Cricket and Will again!!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Exquisite descriptions and raw emotion SUMMARY Anna Hart is an expert missing persons detective in San Francisco. Following a tragic incident that threatens to destroy her marriage Anna flees her home. She heads for Mendocino, where she had spent the latter part of her childhood with patient and caring foster parents. Her earlier childhood, had been difficult. The day she arrives in Mendocino, she learns that a local teenage girl has gone missing. Anna can’t help but become involved with the invest Exquisite descriptions and raw emotion SUMMARY Anna Hart is an expert missing persons detective in San Francisco. Following a tragic incident that threatens to destroy her marriage Anna flees her home. She heads for Mendocino, where she had spent the latter part of her childhood with patient and caring foster parents. Her earlier childhood, had been difficult. The day she arrives in Mendocino, she learns that a local teenage girl has gone missing. Anna can’t help but become involved with the investigation of the missing teenager. Her past and present lives collide when the current disappearance is frighteningly reminiscent of a disappearance from Anna’s earlier years in Mendolicino. REVIEW Once you read the powerful first sentence of When the Stars Go Dark you know this book is going to be stellar. It hooks you and you can’t help but want to know more. The more you read you become aware of exquisite descriptions, raw emotion and a strong female character for the ages. The writing was simple irresistible. This story is uniquely personal for author Paula McLain. Much of Anna’s character, her obsessions, interests and childhood experiences are derived from McLain’s own. And her writing shows it. A sophisticated writer and lyrical story teller, McLain has left her heart and soul on every written page. She creates suspense, and intrigue and she captures the suffering of the victims and their families and the community response when a rash of other girls go missing. There are many dimensions to the story, the past and present, the psychic and spiritual, loss and strength, support and healing and McLain effortlessly blends them all. Paula McLain is a New York Times bestselling author of several novels: Love and Ruin, Circling the Sun, The Paris Wife, and A Ticket to Ride, and the memoir Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses, Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Publisher Random House Published April 13, 2021 Review www.bluestockingreviews.com

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    🎉 Happy Publication Week!! 🎊 I “accidentally” finished the buddy read that I am hosting 48 hours early because I couldn’t put this book down! #sorrynotsorry WARNING: Graphic Content. Note: Some parts of this story are based off of a true crime case involving Polly Hannah Klaas. “Not every kid lands on the milk carton. Some just vanish.” Detective Anna Hart runs a Special Operation called “Project Searchlight” in San Francisco that focuses on sex crimes, kidnapping and murder of children . But when on 🎉 Happy Publication Week!! 🎊 I “accidentally” finished the buddy read that I am hosting 48 hours early because I couldn’t put this book down! #sorrynotsorry WARNING: Graphic Content. Note: Some parts of this story are based off of a true crime case involving Polly Hannah Klaas. “Not every kid lands on the milk carton. Some just vanish.” Detective Anna Hart runs a Special Operation called “Project Searchlight” in San Francisco that focuses on sex crimes, kidnapping and murder of children . But when one particular case causes a major accident within her own home, her husband is unable to forgive her and she runs for the hills. “You blame me too, don’t you? Just say it.” Anna drives until she reaches her childhood hometown of Mendocino, where she hopes to take a break from the hectic; devastating daily life she lives. Trying to find missing kids every day is beyond infuriating, exhausting; disheartening. But, she lives for the days when she is able to bring a victim home safely to their family. She hasn’t been back in seventeen years, but everything still feels so familiar and landmarks and people carry many memories for her, both good and bad. Instead of laying low, she is roped into a missing persons case of a 15 year old girl named Cameron Curtis,daughter of a local celebrity. For the police department it seems that Anna may have gotten there just in time to save a life. She also realizes that the past isn’t as far off as it seems, and both cold cases and distant memories will play a crucial role in helping present circumstances . “I’ve always felt a need to help people. It gets to be too much, though, particularly when they’re in real trouble and you don’t know if you can make a difference no matter how hard you try.” This is a tale that will haunt you long after you close the final page. It is not for the weak of heart. I read every page with the fear as if something was going to jump out at me in my own home. I was terrified and at times crushed for these young women. But, these things happen in this cruel world every single day. The ending will have you reading at break-neck speed. I would LOVE for this to become a series! Thank you very much to Netgalley, Paula McLain, and Random House/ Ballantine Books for an e-arc in exchange for my honest review. Love to all of my buddy readers on Instagram as well! 5 ⭐️.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Being the total outlier on this novel both for level of read enjoyment and reaction to star level of the copy- I am going to think about both for a day or two. Grief mixed with the absurd investigative illegality. Added later. Nope I won't add much else, not worth the time. Just a thought that I sure wish an author, any author, knew the first principles of law enforcement authority requirements, or psychological inquiry criteria "lines you don't cross" before they write a book which encompasses t Being the total outlier on this novel both for level of read enjoyment and reaction to star level of the copy- I am going to think about both for a day or two. Grief mixed with the absurd investigative illegality. Added later. Nope I won't add much else, not worth the time. Just a thought that I sure wish an author, any author, knew the first principles of law enforcement authority requirements, or psychological inquiry criteria "lines you don't cross" before they write a book which encompasses them.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    WHEN THE STARS GO DARK BY PAULA MCLAIN This is a challenging review for me to write because I loved Paula McLean's first two historical novels. The first one called, "The Paris Wife," which honors Ernest Hemingway's first wife and perhaps his greatest love. The two even though they eventually divorced because he was incredibly unfaithful too while married, evidently they always kept in touch throughout his life. The second one that I read because I loved the first one so much and served as an intr WHEN THE STARS GO DARK BY PAULA MCLAIN This is a challenging review for me to write because I loved Paula McLean's first two historical novels. The first one called, "The Paris Wife," which honors Ernest Hemingway's first wife and perhaps his greatest love. The two even though they eventually divorced because he was incredibly unfaithful too while married, evidently they always kept in touch throughout his life. The second one that I read because I loved the first one so much and served as an introduction to her writing was one that I also loved called, "Circling the Sun," The second one was based on Beryll Markham's tumultuous life which also was very well written. Both of these were intriguing and hard to put down for me and someday I will read them again. Her latest novel called, "When the Stars Go Dark," piqued my curiosity but I found it to be a great departure from her previous work. I think that it is a positive attribute when an author breaks the proverbial mold and ventures into something vastly different. But in this case the subject matter was both dark and deeply disturbing to me. So much so, that at one point I remember while I was reading her latest work my stomach felt queasy and I felt like I might not be able to finish this one. I probably wouldn't have had I not been required to write a review in exchange for requesting it. When I saw that Paula McLean had written a new book, an author that I admire. When I read the synopsis it did give me pause but I went ahead and requested this anyway due to the two books of hers that I had read and loved. This one was written with prose that often read like poetry throughout, but if I am to be honest didn't quite work and was at first at least for me a distraction from the plot. It begins with a female fleeing from her life with a husband and it is evident that she has recently given birth. As I read on I was able to ascertain that she is the protagonist that is an experienced detective named Anna Hart who grew up with early childhood trauma from her first family of origin. At the same time she reflects back to two caregivers that she received in foster care who gave her stability and therefore provides her with a primal innate nature to be the effective detective that she is when it comes to finding missing persons. Maybe what was deeply unsettling to me is the factual details woven into the narrative about the Polly Klaas abduction. Knowing that it was real life juxtaposed with the missing teenager of fifteen named Cameron whom Anna is obsessed with finding. Will who is a former childhood friend of Anna's who she reconnects with and agrees to help. Will and Anna are on their own as far as help goes in solving the case compared to all of the manpower and the involvement of the FBI and national media attention given to the Polly Klaas case. At this point in the novel events become more linear compared to the jolting beginning and the plot becomes much easier to follow. In the author's note at the end of the book Paula McLean gives some frightening statistics regarding female sexual assault. She also discloses that she grew up in the foster care system during a period in her life which explains the authenticity that she infuses with her brilliant characterization of Anna. Anna is particularly finely attuned to be able to align herself with the victims that she is searching for in the Mendocino village in 1993. She appears to have great insight into the missing females that her and Will are investigating. Anna's almost sixth sense of what most likely transpired and her ease to untangling clues takes front and center stage on the hunt compared to Will. This was a book that I had to read until the final page and then go back to the beginning and read it again for me to grasp the whole narrative. On reflecting back I do feel like the book was well written and does succeed in the message this author delivers. It does make sense, but it did take me to backtrack as it was complicated by the structure not always following a straight line. I can't say that I enjoyed this but other's may who have a strong stomach for the subject matter of missing children and young adults. I also can't deny that Paula McLean's talent as a gifted writer due to her MFA in poetry and her life experience does succeed in this newest work and it is worthy of its four stars. As a mother of two grown son's aged 19 and 22 I am grateful that so far this author's plot and the facts of this work have not yet affected their lives and I hope that it never does, For me this was hard to read but my takeaway is to be more informed no matter how uncomfortable I felt reading this. As I mentioned beforehand the poetic prose made the writing and my comprehension of the story somewhat jarring at first. However, after reading further and by the time Anna and Will are firmly established the poetic writing was quite beautiful. Especially as it describes the atmospheric setting of the outdoors in the vast wilderness of the woods and the Pacific Ocean and its cliffs and beaches. In one phrase it describes the pine needles on the forest floor to smell like cinnamon. The breathtaking imagery lifts this novel far above most in this genre and what most likely attributes it to feel so real and eery. Publication Date: April 13, 2021 Thank you to Net Galley, Paula McLean and Random House Group Publishing--Ballantine for generously providing me with my Arc in exchange for a fair and honest review, All opinions are my own, #WhentheStarsGoDark #PaulaMcLain #RandomHousePublishingBallantine #NetGalley

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alexa

    4.5 stars rounded up. This one is more of an upmarket light suspense, but damn if it wasn't a beautiful book in places. The prose was *chef's kiss*. When I got to the end and saw the author has also published poetry I was like yep. This is one where you sink into the setting/atmosphere and the deep character studies and roll with it, less than a who-dun-it guessing game. I read it slowly over the course of a month (on and off) and no regerts. Sinking back into it each time was like a warm bath a 4.5 stars rounded up. This one is more of an upmarket light suspense, but damn if it wasn't a beautiful book in places. The prose was *chef's kiss*. When I got to the end and saw the author has also published poetry I was like yep. This is one where you sink into the setting/atmosphere and the deep character studies and roll with it, less than a who-dun-it guessing game. I read it slowly over the course of a month (on and off) and no regerts. Sinking back into it each time was like a warm bath and the story was vivid enough to stay front of mind. The one thing that threw me more than once was that the book is historical--set in 1993, and includes the very-much-real abduction story of Polly Klaas. When I first got to that part I was like wait, what? It threw me for a loop more than once, though it's not like it was poorly done. It added texture to the story, and, well, reminded me every time it was 1993 ha. To that end, the book has a nice "old school" feel b/c there's no cell phones or fancy technology to assist in the story. I don't even think CODIS was a thing at the time. There are even psychics assisting in missing kid cases which just feels so 80s/90s. (the book, however, leans IN on that idea FYI so you need to be a little bit kumbaya to enjoy some bits.) At heart this is character driven with a slow pulse of missing girls, with some really beautiful moments, particularly as they relate to being in the foster system/finding place and family. I got a bit teary at the end. The twist itself I found relatively easy to guess but because of the tone and style it wasn't about guessing/catching the bad guy so much as finding the girl, about vulnerable girls, and healing. Recommend this one to those who like character driven suspense and WOODS BOOKS OMG and small town secrets. I could drink the atmosphere in this book. Oh also VERY IMPORTANT. There is a dog. THE DOG DOES NOT DIE. I was so worried y'all. And it's so important that's not going in a spoiler tag. THE DOG IS OK. (I love the dog.) Oh but one trigger warning related to children, as well as CSA. (view spoiler)[There is an aspect of the plot about dead children/losing a child that may be upsetting for some readers. There is also a thread about childhood sexual abuse, but it is written sensitively (the author's note shares that the author is a CSA survivor). (hide spoiler)]

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chelsey (a_novel_idea11)

    This was an entertaining and emotional read that while didn't feel entirely unique or new, the perspective and deliverance was fairly fresh. Anna is an investigator of missing children. After a personal tragedy, she's taking time off work and decides to return to her "hometown" for some down time. When she sees a flyer for a missing girl, Cameron Curtis, memories from her own youth and the disappearance of her acquaintance Jenny come flooding back. Unable to disengage and take the personal time s This was an entertaining and emotional read that while didn't feel entirely unique or new, the perspective and deliverance was fairly fresh. Anna is an investigator of missing children. After a personal tragedy, she's taking time off work and decides to return to her "hometown" for some down time. When she sees a flyer for a missing girl, Cameron Curtis, memories from her own youth and the disappearance of her acquaintance Jenny come flooding back. Unable to disengage and take the personal time she needs, Anna reaches out to her old friend Will who happens to be heading the investigation and offers her services. There was A LOT going on in this novel - with Anna, with the investigation (and several others), and with the history of the town and characters. Chapters tended to alternate between the present (likely set in the late 1990s because the internet was just taking off) and Anna's past with her two siblings being taken away and Anna going through the foster care system. The present storyline presented several investigations - the disappearance of Cameron Curtis in addition to two other current potential kidnappings, Jenny's death when Anna lived in Mendocino, and hitchhiking murders that occurred in the 1970s. With all the various plot lines came a lot of characters and a lot of back stories. The connections were hard to find and the characters were very hard for me to keep track of. While I generally enjoyed the back stories and subplots, it ended up being just TOO MUCH. For example, I felt Anna's entire personal crisis could have been cut. It was addressed in the first couple chapters, largely ignored for the middle 95% of the book, and then thrown in at the end to wrap everything up. It explained why Anna went to Mendocino (kind of), but otherwise served very little purpose to the overall story. On top of that, I felt like it was used as a literary tool to hook the reader by giving us super vague and upsetting details in the beginning without any actual information, but then was so ignored for so much of the book that I kind of stopped caring. We had so much of Anna's backstory that I felt really bogged down by the details and actually missed anything about her personally. She was hard to connect to and even with so much history, felt like an "unknown" to me. Much of the book felt like it was just setting up plot lines in order to create a series. I have no idea if this is the case but diving so deep into the police procedural for the other kidnappings often felt unnecessary and made the book overly long. It also introduced a lot more characters which added to my struggle of already keeping everyone straight. While overall I did enjoy this book, it wasn't one I needed to pick up constantly or couldn't put down. Unfortunately, it probably won't really stick with me. I was actually a little surprised it wasn't a debut and think it could have been much better if the subplots had been trimmed or even cut entirely. If you enjoy complex police procedurals and character studies, this may be a good one for you! Thank you to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for a copy of this novel.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    4.5 It's been quite a while since I have read a book that I didn't want to put down and I almost passed on this novel. I very much enjoyed this authors past historical novels and the thought of a thriller written by her caused me much doubt. But, I guess it's true, or at least in this case, if one is a good writer they can write anything, and do it well. I loved the character Anna North, a detective whose job is finding missing children. After a horrific incident in her personal life, she escapes 4.5 It's been quite a while since I have read a book that I didn't want to put down and I almost passed on this novel. I very much enjoyed this authors past historical novels and the thought of a thriller written by her caused me much doubt. But, I guess it's true, or at least in this case, if one is a good writer they can write anything, and do it well. I loved the character Anna North, a detective whose job is finding missing children. After a horrific incident in her personal life, she escapes to the last place she was happy. Mendocino, where she lived with her now deceased adoptive parents. The town is little changed, in fact she is surprised to find an old childhood friend is now the chief of police. Plus, fate has thrown her another challenge. A 15 year old girl is missing and this brings her into her own past and entangles her into a case in which she cannot look away. I think what I found so intriguing about this novel were all the psychological elements explored. Killer, victims, people's paste and various connections. How ones past affects how one behaves in the present. Triggers, memories, abusive or challenging childhoods. This book is also very well written, with many surprises and a quick but measured pace. There is also a psychic that I was quite taken with, a wise woman she was indeed. This also takes place before the internet but it's coming and the part it would play in crime solving in the near future is foreshadowed by a real case most will have heard. Terrific, immersive read. ARC from Edelweiss.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    Such a different focus for this beloved historical fiction writer (The Paris Wife, Circling the Sun)! McLain applies her elegant descriptive style to an absorbing mystery involving an emotionally wounded detective, a missing child case, and trauma stirred up by the past. Heartbreaking and redemptive, especially as McLain reveals in her Author’s Note why she felt called to write it. Perfect for a book club discussion and Skype call with the author! 5 of 5 Stars Pub Date 13 Apr 2021 Thanks to the au Such a different focus for this beloved historical fiction writer (The Paris Wife, Circling the Sun)! McLain applies her elegant descriptive style to an absorbing mystery involving an emotionally wounded detective, a missing child case, and trauma stirred up by the past. Heartbreaking and redemptive, especially as McLain reveals in her Author’s Note why she felt called to write it. Perfect for a book club discussion and Skype call with the author! 5 of 5 Stars Pub Date 13 Apr 2021 Thanks to the author, Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions are mine. #WhentheStarsGoDark #NetGalley

  26. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    This is a novel about missing persons detective Anna Hart fleeing back to her home town of Mendocino in an effort to escape her own personal angst and tragedy. Ironically upon her return the town is reeling with it’s own case of a missing teenager. Anna is quickly thrown into the mix as the Mendocino detective working the case is her childhood friend. Thus the story begins with past and present scenarios intertwined in this suspenseful saga. Bits and pieces of Anna’s past are revealed sporadicall This is a novel about missing persons detective Anna Hart fleeing back to her home town of Mendocino in an effort to escape her own personal angst and tragedy. Ironically upon her return the town is reeling with it’s own case of a missing teenager. Anna is quickly thrown into the mix as the Mendocino detective working the case is her childhood friend. Thus the story begins with past and present scenarios intertwined in this suspenseful saga. Bits and pieces of Anna’s past are revealed sporadically as the story progresses. The current missing teenager case is bringing back painful memories of an unsolved case back when Anna was a teenager and the emotional trauma that still affects her. The author did a great job on character portrayal and correlating the past events with the current situation and why Anna and others are dealing with the present day the way they are. It was a quick read that got my attention right from the start. I did figure it out about half way through but still thoroughly enjoy the novel. Thank you NetGalley & Random House Publishing for sharing this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    This is a slow moving mystery and a mystery that has very little actual physical clues, but instead uses the experience and gut of the main character. So, not a police procedural or a thriller by any means. More, I would say, a thoughtful and contemplative look at abused and missing children, told through the narrative of a detective main character and a current missing person case. After reading the author notes it was clear this was a book rooted in deeply personal experience and that definite This is a slow moving mystery and a mystery that has very little actual physical clues, but instead uses the experience and gut of the main character. So, not a police procedural or a thriller by any means. More, I would say, a thoughtful and contemplative look at abused and missing children, told through the narrative of a detective main character and a current missing person case. After reading the author notes it was clear this was a book rooted in deeply personal experience and that definitely came through in the narrative. I do wonder if this would have been a more impactful story if told through a more interpersonal narrative with the mystery playing a more secondary role. Much thanks to the publisher for allowing me to read an advanced copy.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    *** HAPPY PUB DAY *** I don't remember why I requested an Advance Reader's Copy of this book, but I'm glad I did. The subject matter, missing and abused children, is dark but the story is so compellingly told that I found myself involved to the point of obsession with the characters in the book. The author also includes real missing person cases (remember Polly Klaas?) and interweaves them effectively into the plot. Anna, a specialist in finding missing persons, is trying to recover from the accid *** HAPPY PUB DAY *** I don't remember why I requested an Advance Reader's Copy of this book, but I'm glad I did. The subject matter, missing and abused children, is dark but the story is so compellingly told that I found myself involved to the point of obsession with the characters in the book. The author also includes real missing person cases (remember Polly Klaas?) and interweaves them effectively into the plot. Anna, a specialist in finding missing persons, is trying to recover from the accidental death of her child and her crumbling marriage when she sets out for a small town in Northern California to try and recover. Having been passed around in the foster care system while growing up, this is the place that holds the happiest memories for her and the place she is thinking will provide some much needed solace. Unfortunately, a fifteen year-old girl has just disappeared and Anna volunteers her skills in the search for her. During her research, Anna finds similar disappearances in surrounding towns and also drags up a cold case disappearance from when she lived there. Feeling certain they are all related, Anna must convince Will, the local sheriff, to expand his investigation. Set in the pre-cellphone and budding internet era of 1993, the book demonstrates how much we rely on technology to communicate and help solve today's crimes. Anna battles not only small-town thinking, but also the bureaucracy of the FBI in her efforts to link the cases of the missing girls. The story often delves into Anna's past and shows how unresolved issues can linger and affect one's life years later. This is an intense read but also a very rewarding story. Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for this ARC. It will be published April 13, 2021.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    4 Stars This 4 Star thriller was so much more than a generic "find the missing girl and save her from the crazy man" story. Although there was a missing girl who needed to be saved, When the Stars Go Dark: A Novel, delved deeply into the lives of the investigators, the missing girl, her family and the history of the town. Additionally, a very famous missing persons case from the 1990's was woven into the plot. SUMMARY Anna, after experiencing a traumatic loss, returns to the only place that ev 4 Stars This 4 Star thriller was so much more than a generic "find the missing girl and save her from the crazy man" story. Although there was a missing girl who needed to be saved, When the Stars Go Dark: A Novel, delved deeply into the lives of the investigators, the missing girl, her family and the history of the town. Additionally, a very famous missing persons case from the 1990's was woven into the plot. SUMMARY Anna, after experiencing a traumatic loss, returns to the only place that ever felt like home, Mendocino, CA. Anna is a detective assigned to the most challenging missing persons cases but has recently lived through a personal tragedy which has caused a seemingly insurmountable rift with her husband. She had a difficult childhood but after finally being matched with loving foster parents Hap and Eden, she was able to live out the remainder of her childhood in Mendocino with them, as their beloved daughter. When she arrives, she discovers that a local fifteen year old girl, Cameron, is missing. The missing girl brings back memories of another girl, Jenny, who went missing in Mendocino when Anna was a teenager. Jenny had been a close friend of Anna's, which left Anna with yet another heartache. Jenny's killer had never been found and the town had never recovered. After spending a few days hiding from the world, Anna finally decides to offer to help with the search. It turns out that the sheriff, Will, is an old friend too. They share painful memories of Jenny's disappearance, which further motivates their drive to find Cameron. As the search for Cameron progresses, the reader learns about Jenny's disappearance, Cameron's past and all about Anna; her painful childhood, what brought her to Hap and Eden and the recent painful experience which brought her back to Mendocino. There is a lot packed into this plot! WHAT I LOVED There is so much to love about this book, it has everything I love about a thriller; a very intense plot, characters with interesting backstories, a fast pace and a villain I didn't suspect. There is even a dog and a psychic. The setting is a huge part of what made the story so compelling. First of all, the location, Mendocino, a beautiful, heavily wooded area in Northern California lends itself to hiding places in the woods where a kidnapping victim could be kept. And the time, early 1990's, before local law enforcement agencies had a shared database of crimes and suspects with other areas, where that sort of thing was only shared piecemeal. It allowed a serial criminal to change locations, continue committing crimes but avoid being detected because there was no pattern established from another area. Plus, the way the police began a search for a missing person was different then, now they would have immediately begin looking at the victims social media,phone records and computer etc. It took days to find out about Cameron's personal life, where now it would have been minutes. Plus, in the 1990's, kidnapping victims would have most likely met their abductors in person, where now, it can be anyone anywhere on the internet. Combine the area and the time frame, and the plot overlaps the real kidnapping and murder of Polly Klaas. Her real life kidnapping is woven into the story. Additionally, there are several cold cases from the 1970's that the sheriff, Will is investigating, considering the mention of real life Polly Klaas, I wondered if he would stumble upon missing persons cases related to the real life Golden State Killer.There were so many real life facts, that I had to recheck the book title and be sure it is actually a fiction versus a memoir or true crime. So, as you can see, there is a lot more going on in the story besides just the main plot. So much for the reader to sink their teeth into. WHAT DIDN'T LOVE The story jumps back and forth in time between Anna's early childhood, teen years, the time just before she left for Mendocino and present tense during the search for Cameron. The shifts in the timeline are not noted by a date so it could be confusing at times. I found myself often confused about which time period I was reading about. OVERALL This is my third Paula McLain, each of her books are so different and good in their own right; I am definitely a fan and will read her next one. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good, suspense filled thriller.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Susie | Novel Visits

    𝑩𝒓𝒂𝒗𝒐 𝒕𝒐 𝑷𝒂𝒖𝒍𝒂 𝑴𝒄𝑳𝒂𝒊𝒏! You have to admire an author who steps out of her very successful wheelhouse and ventures into a whole new literary territory. Even more, you have to admire just how well she does it.⁣ ⁣ 𝑾𝑯𝑬𝑵 𝑻𝑯𝑬 𝑺𝑻𝑨𝑹𝑺 𝑮𝑶 𝑫𝑨𝑹𝑲 is surely considered a thriller by many, but to me it was a wonderfully written literary suspense novel, a sort of sub-genre I’m coming to love. At the core of this story is San Francisco police detective Anna Hart who specializes in cases of missing children. Tragedy 𝑩𝒓𝒂𝒗𝒐 𝒕𝒐 𝑷𝒂𝒖𝒍𝒂 𝑴𝒄𝑳𝒂𝒊𝒏! You have to admire an author who steps out of her very successful wheelhouse and ventures into a whole new literary territory. Even more, you have to admire just how well she does it.⁣ ⁣ 𝑾𝑯𝑬𝑵 𝑻𝑯𝑬 𝑺𝑻𝑨𝑹𝑺 𝑮𝑶 𝑫𝑨𝑹𝑲 is surely considered a thriller by many, but to me it was a wonderfully written literary suspense novel, a sort of sub-genre I’m coming to love. At the core of this story is San Francisco police detective Anna Hart who specializes in cases of missing children. Tragedy has led Anna to flee her life and return to Mendocino, where from age 10 on she found comfort with loving foster parents. She hopes for a for a time of quiet solitude there, but many skeletons lie in Anna’s closet. Both her recent trauma, and the disappearance of a 14-year old girl in her hometown awaken the ghosts that have long haunted her. ⁣ ⁣ “𝘌𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘴𝘦𝘦𝘮𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘸𝘪𝘳𝘭 𝘪𝘯 𝘢 𝘷𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘹, 𝘺𝘢𝘯𝘬𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘩, 𝘢𝘸𝘧𝘶𝘭 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘣𝘦𝘢𝘶𝘵𝘪𝘧𝘶𝘭, 𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘐’𝘮 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘪𝘵, 𝘵𝘳𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴, 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘳𝘪𝘥𝘦 𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘥𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘰𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘦𝘢𝘳.”⁣ ⁣ For all these reasons and more, Anna cannot stay away from the case. From there, McLain artfully wove together Anna’s past and her present, her sorrows and regrets, her secrets and fears, and her quest to understand and forgive herself. I was mesmerized from start to finish! Note: I received an e-galley of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts.

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