When the Stars Go Dark: A Novel (Hardcover)
When Stars Go Dark is set in California in the early 1990s, around the time of the Polly Klass kidnapping. Anna Hart, a seasoned San Francisco detective, goes home to Mendocino to work through some personal heartbreaks. A girl goes missing there as well and soon she becomes embroiled in this new mystery which brings up old mysteries. McLain usually writes historical fiction like the Paris Wife but wow can she write a mystery. Could not put this book down. Anna Hart is such a complete, well-developed character and the mysteries are so compelling. Yet another good book by this veteran author. – Kim BMercurial May Staff Picks
Author Paula McLain reveals that her new novel, When the Stars Go Dark, is “as personal as anything (she’s) ever written.” Unlike her historical fiction The Paris Wife, this is a story of abandoned children, sexual abuse, and family relationships. Inspired by the 1993 kidnapping of a young girl from California, McLain has used her personal pain to create the character Anna Hart, who is an investigator of missing children. When a teenage girl from her hometown goes missing, Anna realizes that her own dark past is what helps her solve the missing person case. Author McLain spent her childhood in foster homes, is a survivor of sexual abuse, and understands the hidden scars and trauma associated with it. McLain and Anna Hart have a lot in common. This story is much more than a “whodunit.”
It’s a “whodunit” … and WHY! -VirgieJocund July Staff Picks
April 2021 Indie Next List
“No matter what the genre, McLain is a masterful storyteller. Her protagonist in this latest novel is one of the most authentic and powerful characters I have ever experienced. Anna Hart, a missing persons detective, shares not only her knowledge as an expert on missing children but she lays bare her own personal demons as she struggles to find a teen who has disappeared. I was captivated from page one and couldn’t stop until I finished this intense and provocative story. Absolutely mesmerizing!”
— Stephanie Crowe, Page and Palette, Fairhope, AL
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • GOOD MORNING AMERICA BUZZ PICK • “A total departure for the author of The Paris Wife, McLain’s emotionally intense and exceptionally well-written thriller entwines its fictional crime with real cases.”—People (Book of the Week)
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MARIE CLAIRE • “The kind of heart-pounding conclusion that thriller fans crave . . . In the end, a book full of darkness lands with a message of hope.”—The New York Times Book Review
“This mystery will keep you guessing, and stay with you long after you finish. Dive in.”—Daily Skimm
Anna Hart is a seasoned missing persons detective in San Francisco with far too much knowledge of the darkest side of human nature. 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 that 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 saving 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.
About the Author
Paula McLain is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Love and Ruin, Circling the Sun, The Paris Wife, and A Ticket to Ride, the memoir Like Family: Growing Up in Other People's Houses, and two collections of poetry. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, O: The Oprah Magazine, Town & Country, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and elsewhere. She lives in Ohio with her family.
“This genre-bending novel [is an] absolutely incredible literary thriller about the human journey.”—Good Morning America
“Fueled by pure high anxiety . . . When the Stars Go Dark is an atmospheric and intricately plotted suspense novel.”—The Washington Post
“The twisty plot keeps the pages flying, and Paula McLain’s lyrical and poetic prose reveals insight after insight about the human heart, making this riveting read not only an engrossing psychological thriller, but crime fiction of the highest order.”—Lisa Scottoline, author of Someone Knows
“When the Stars Go Dark is a beautifully written, sharply observed literary thriller with an extraordinary, unforgettable heroine. An unflinching look at the long shadow cast by trauma and the resilience it takes to survive, this is a novel of both great sadness and great beauty.”—Kristin Hannah, author of The Four Winds
“Paula McLain has created a vulnerable, intelligent, unforgettable protagonist whose interior life is as interesting as the mysteries she has to solve. When the Stars Go Dark is my favorite kind of book. I’ll recommend it far and wide.”—Liz Moore, author of Long Bright River
“Lyrical and beautiful . . . a riveting deep dive into trauma, survival, and obsession. With her deeply flawed and utterly compelling heroine, elegant prose, and layered, twisting story, Paula McLain has penned an extraordinary novel of literary suspense, as gripping as it is unique and unforgettable.”—Lisa Unger, author of Confessions on the 7:45
“With this breathtaking novel, Paula McLain proves she can do anything. Exquisitely written, immersive, and atmospheric, When the Stars Go Dark is a tour de force of literary suspense.”—Christina Baker Kline, author of The Exiles
“Paula McLain, already established as the master of the historical novel, now explodes into crime fiction with a richly satisfying, tremendously moving mystery—haunting, poignant, lyrical, urgent.”—Chris Pavone, author of The Paris Diversion
“Fantastically propulsive and deeply atmospheric, this novel grabs you from the very first page. Paula McLain has proven to be a masterful storyteller no matter the genre.”—Aimee Molloy, author of The Perfect Mother
“This melancholy but gripping tale uses backstory and flashbacks to propel the mystery forward. Part suspense, part self-discovery tale, this first attempt at crime fiction from historical fiction author McLain (The Paris Wife) is hard to resist. Fans of the author’s other works will not be disappointed.”—Library Journal
“[A] stunning crime novel . . . McLain matches poetic prose with deep characterizations as she shines a light on the kindness in her characters’ souls. Fans of literary suspense won’t be able to put this one down.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)