File Name: When the Stars Go Dark
Author : Paula McLain (Goodreads Author)
ISBN : 9780593237892
Format : Hardcover 384 pages
Genre : Mystery, Fiction, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Adult, Adult Fiction, Suspense, Historical, Historical Fiction,
Rating: really liked it
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.
Rating: really liked it
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
Rating: really liked it
Ok, here we go, a long and proper book deserves a long proper review and mine is the first of that kind here, which is always a pleasure and often a privilege. To boldly go…
Just when you thought Paula McLain has finally quit plundering historical figures for her reimaginings and wrote a proper mystery thriller…you go and realize that no, she’s still at it, it’s just toned down. Which is to say this abuse centric kidnapping/murder/serial killer thriller does feature a famous/infamous Polly Klaas case, but it isn’t the center of the story. In fact, the way McLain tells in in her afterword, it was almost an afterthought, occurring after the general idea came to her. And so, McLain plunders her own past, time spent in social services provided care as a youth, sexual abuse, etc. and comes up with this story about a small Northern California town thrown into chaos after a fifteen year old adopted daughter of a locally residing actress disappears. The local sheriff is overwhelmed, but as timing would have it, his childhood friend comes for a stay, a childhood friend who has grown up to become a leading kidnapping detective in San Francisco. Meet Anna, your protagonist, a detective so dedicated, so driven by her own past trauma, that it affects her family, tragically so, and now she is reeling from something so devastating, it drove her away, all the way back to the sleepy Mendocino. But no R &R for Anna in her freshly rented cabin, she can’t help herself, can’t not get involved, can’t stand by and wait for the girl to become another tragic statistic. And so her and Will, the sheriff, investigate the case, slowly, steadily, methodically, until she gets a Sherlock moment or two and suddenly it’s grand reveal. And ok, to be fair, it’s a good reveal, in retrospect it should have been easier to figure out and I all too often do, but this one did take me by surprise and for that, major kudos to the author. And ok, to be fair, she does throw a lot to distract you from a pretty obvious killer and that lot is all about abuse, a subject that’s obviously personal and important to the author to shine the light on. Specifically child abuse and abuse against women of all ages. The afterword features some genuinely terrifying statistics on the matter and having read those, it doesn’t seem so far fetched how much of it is featured in the book. It’s difficult to read about and worth tackling, fictionally and otherwise, so reader beware. It does all serve to advance the plot here, so yeah. The real distraction is the overwriting, which McLain is prone to do. Maybe it’s the poet in her, maybe it’s just her style. She just writes like she’s in love with her writing. It’s the best way I can explain it. And mind you, she should be proud of it, it’s fine writing, but it just seems so overwrought at times. But at any rate, this is a huge improvement upon the only other book of hers I’ve ever read (from her historical fiction phase), that one was almost chicklity in its exuberant estrogen driven extravagance. This has a tough realistic genre appropriate style to the narrative, it was moody and dark, again very appropriate, and overall it worked quite well as a suspense thriller. It only ever so often went off on a random whimsical tangent, like the entire chapter towards the end. Mostly it stayed in its lane, as it drove down the message while chasing down the killer. The pacing was ever so slightly leisurely at times, but it read well enough not to matter. Fans of literary ark psychological fiction would most likely enjoy this one. Plus it’s always nice to see the author shifting gears and trying something different. Though she does go from a very popular genre to an insanely popular one, but that’s just what’s out there these days. Who knows. Maybe one day she’ll try pure fiction, something so wildly out there that no real people will be used in making of it. But for now, there’s this and it’s pretty good. Thanks Netgalley.
Rating: really liked it
4.5* This book takes place in 1993 Mendocino, CA before cell phones and internet. It is told by Missing Persons Detective Anna Hart and opens with a scene of her child’s death with no details about what happened. The facts of her loss and her past are revealed in snippets. Fleeing her husband and job, Anna returns to her hometown where she almost immediately becomes immersed in assisting the local sheriff, a childhood friend, with a missing teenager investigation. The real-life Polly Klaas kidnapping in nearby Petaluma runs concurrently with the storyline which is interwoven with a cold case of a missing childhood friend.
The story and the writing are excellent. Particularly the way we learn Anna’s backstory: the relationship with her foster father Hap; how she learned to navigate the forest; read nonverbal cues; and most significantly what it felt like to be abandoned as child and how that scars and shapes a person throughout their life.
These are not overwhelming to the book, but it is worth mentioning a trigger warning for difficult subject matter related to gruesome details of violent murder and sexual assault.
At 384 pages this is a quick read that you may stay up to finish as the end approaches.
Thank you #NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for sharing this ARC of #When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: it was amazing
I absolutely loved it and my full review will appear in the New York Journal of Books on release day. Here is the opening paragraph: .
A haunting, intelligent novel for the discerning reader, Paula McClain’s, When the Stars Go Dark thrills you into engaging with the riveting story lest you miss the tenor of its well-wrought beats. This is a thinking man’s page-turner; a riveting crime-detective story experienced through the wounded soul of narrator Anna whose life-path comes full-circle even as she outruns her past.
I will update with the review here on release day.
Rating: it was amazing
This was the story of a search for a missing girl, but so much more.
The reader knows from the prologue that the protagonist has suffered some recent tragedy, but not what it was. At first that bothered me, but as I got into the story (which hooked me right away) I was less concerned with it. Well written and with a lot of suspense added for good measure.
I did guess who the villain was partway through the book, but that didn't lessen my enjoyment.
One minor error did bother me: The story takes place in 1993, but near the end of the book a reference is made to the Internet.
I have read McLain's historical fiction and was glad to see that she can write in other genres.
Rating: it was amazing
Anna is a detective who works on missing persons cases and is a bit obsessed about her work. After tragedy strikes at home, Anna decides to return to Mendocino where she used to live with her foster parents.
Anna at this point is broken and battered. She needs time to heal and recover but she decides to help with the missing person case of a girl named Cameron. The police chief is her childhood friend, Will.
This book takes you on a great ride in the journey to find Cameron who is assumed to be kidnapped. A long the way, Anna is touched by many people and her healing begins.
This book kept me very interested right from the beginning and am thrilled that I received an early copy from Ballantine and Netgalley.
Rating: liked it
Thanks to Netgalley and Ballantine Books for the Advanced Reading Copy of this novel.
Trigger Warning for this novel : Rape, Sexual Abuse, Neglect
Reading this novel was like watching law and order SVU in a book format. The novel has some life flashbacks in Anna's life and her life now. Three girls are missing and how Anna's life intermingles with these girls make the crux of the story.
Its a very slow novel which kind of makes it hard to read. A little fast pace would have been nice.
Rating: really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book. I previously read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and this novel was quite different. I was unsure how I was going to feel about the book when I started it; the prologue felt off to me and I was trying to figure out what tragedy forced Anna Hart to leave home and return to a place from her past. The way the author writes the setting/scenery transported me to the woods of California. It felt like I was there alongside the characters. I liked how the novel was set in the 1990s since I was born in 1990. I remember Jaycee and other kidnappings and how so much has changed for law enforcement with technology since then. I thought weaving the lives of the main character and the three victims was really smart as well. Each girl/woman had a story that was unique but that fit together, bonding them to each other. That bond helped Anna Hart understand these girls and how to help find them and bring them home. I thought bringing in the Polly Klaas kidnapping/murder was very smart as well since it showed that a community can come together to find a missing child and how that case elevated the use of the internet and technology in solving crimes. I loved Tally the psychic and how she helped weave and bond the characters together and show Anna the way to forgiveness and seeing that those we love are always with us even if they are not there physically. This was a good read! I recommend it!
Rating: it was amazing
This book is stunning. It feels like it’s really been written by a detective specialized in missing children, by someone who’d been a fostered kid herself, someone who’s lived and witnessed tragedies firsthand—I almost ache for McLain, thinking about the mountains of research she must have gone through. At some point, the main character, Anna, says, “I wasn’t just involved in my cases, I lived and breathed them,” and it’s exactly how I felt about this book. It breathes on its own, as do Anna and Will through the pages, even the forest seems to want to come to life.
And while there don’t seem to be a single character who isn’t tormented—except Cricket, the dog, maybe—McLain manages to deliver a story of resilience, redemption, and hope. There are real and interesting, deep questions about life, real struggles and hurt. Real horrors, too.
I found this story absolutely fascinating, very loving, and it flows marvelously, almost poetic sometimes in spite of the gravity of the events.
Special thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for the eARC in exchange for my honest review.
Rating: it was amazing
This book is a harrowing tale of missing children, and the dedicated detective who is determined to do all she can to find them, at times, at the sacrifice of her own personal life. The detective the author has created is a courageous, flawed heroine whose story you will long remember. As the story unfolds, you learn the history of the detective, as well as the story of the victims, and the perpetrator. The author expertly blends the various stories and characters in a book that is beautifully written, and, at times, poetic. The time period is just at the beginning of the internet, national databases and DNA, and highlights the difficulties of searching for the missing in that time period. She also incorporates the story of Polly Klass, which occurred within that time frame, and the changes to crime investigation that were initiated because of that tragic case. It is definitely a book that will keep you riveted to each page. This book is full of tragedy, suspense and ultimately, hope. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I did receive a complimentary copy from Netgalley and the publisher. I am so glad I did!
Rating: it was amazing
Just finished this book - I couldn’t put it down! A emotionally wounded detective obsessed with the search for a missing girl and a murderer woven around the real life story of Polly Klaas - with a dog sidekick?! Sign me up!!!
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for the advance copy of this book. This book is amazing and I know readers will love it!
Rating: really liked it
The prologue was brilliant. McClain went deep into the worst pain in the world, losing a child. It was ingenious and captured my emotions and admiration of her profound writing. Then I went to the first chapter where the main character, Anna Hart, was stowed in a motel room, after leaving her husband. She phoned him, Brendan is his name, and he was at his wit’s end. He referred to someone else that needed her and Anna weakly pleaded for more time. McClain captured her angst and she was inconsolable.
There is a scene in the shower in the motel room, which provided the reader with a hint of her past and present, but it was not clear. We do not discover the horrific tragedy that occurred prompting Anna to leave her home and return to Mendocino. In this small coastal town in Northern California, Anna spent her youth with her adoptive or foster parents – good people, who loved her.
This is somewhat of an historical novel as the town was beset with the abduction of teenage girls. Possible murder is involved. Anna is an expert in this field. In fact, when she is on a case, finding the suspect and the victim becomes more than a challenge, it is an addiction. It is sometimes disconcerting as McClain is weaving factual details of a real case, the Polly Klaas abduction.
The time is 1993, before cell phones and wide usage of the internet. The lack of mobile phones is significant; it slowed down active searches and connecting with another detective or search parties immediately. Instead, this story emphasizes Anna’s expertise in traversing vast forest areas with difficult terrain. Most of the novel concerns Anna’s obsession, skills and some peripheral relationships with other characters.
The plot tightened up in the last chapters, and there was a resolution to the kidnappings. McClain emphasizes Anna’s ability to totally concentrate on finding the girls despite her own ongoing personal tragedy. Finally, the reader become knowledgeable about Anna’s heartbreak. We know of her horrific childhood early in the novel. Not until she solves the present crimes does the reader know of her recent personal tragedy. This technique was not sufficiently successful and nothing packed the literary punch of the Prologue and the first chapter.
Thank you NetGalley and Random House/Ballantine for the opportunity to read this pre-published for an honest review.
Rating: really liked it
Thank you Netgalley for this book!
I read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain awhile ago but remember liking it quite a bit. The plot is entirely different, historical fiction set in Paris in the early 1900s, about Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Hadley. When I read that she had written a thriller, I was intrigued. Little did I know that this book was also historical fiction based on actual people, this time Polly Klaas. Most Americans will remember her kidnapping. She was taken from her bedroom in front of two friends by a stranger and subsequently murdered. Her story was national headlines for awhile. This story follows fictional girls who go missing around the same time.
From Goodreads: Anna Hart is a seasoned missing persons detective in San Francisco with far too much knowledge of the darkest side of human nature. When overwhelming 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.
Anna is flawed, struggling with both her past and her present, which makes her a great main character. She’s captivating and troubled. The layers of her trauma are pulled back slowly, some not revealed until much later in the book, which keeps the reader guessing. I’m not a big historical fiction fan, but McLain has knocked it out of the park twice for me. I’ll definitely be reading more of her work.
Rating: liked it
Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of When the Stars Go Dark.
I didn't read the author's first book but I was intrigued by the premise and pleased when my request was approved.
** Minor spoilers ahead **
Turns out this was less a suspenseful mystery than a thoughtful narrative about sensitive topics including sexual abuse and violence, the travails of foster care, adoption, processing and dealing with trauma.
It also read like a labor of love for the author who wrote from personal experience as an adoptee and a survivor of sexual abuse.
Mixing reality with fiction by drawing from the real life disappearances of young girls from the 90s, the author introduces readers to seasoned but traumatized detective Anna Hart.
She has returned to her hometown after suffering a horrifying personal loss and is quickly swept up in the disappearance of two local girls who share similar backgrounds and personalities that make them vulnerable to predators.
As Anna and the local police force pound the pavement and interview witnesses and potential suspects, Anna becomes convinced she was brought here for a reason. She must find the girls and in some way, redeem herself.
I didn't dislike Anna; she is a capable detective but she often allowed her emotions to get in the way. I understand she is in mourning and coupled with two cases of abductions would throw anyone for a loop but I felt she acted out of character for someone so respected in her field.
This really isn't a mystery since there are not many clues to unravel and plenty of exposition about what local law enforcement springs into action when a girl goes missing and how a community rallies around the family of the abducted girl.
In fact, I guessed whodunit the moment the character appeared on the page.
Rather, this is a well written and very personal novel honoring lost and exploited children, especially those who have not yet been found and returned to their loved ones.
The author notes the sobering statistics of sexual abuse against women and young girls in her afterword and mentions that sorrow connects people, but there is power in shared pain and empathy. It can also empower us.
There are very sensitive subjects in here so certain readers may want to stay clear but I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a thought provoking novel.