Paula McLain has done it again. With eloquent wording and excellent historical detail, she’s fully encapsulated the horrors as well as the intricacies of a missing persons case. In her newly released novel, When the Stars Go Dark, McLain crafts a complex character whose past coincides with her present. As detective Anna Hart unravels the mysteries behind the disappearance of several young girls, she finds that her shared traumas with the girls may assist in locating them, dead or alive.
The framework of the novel is inspired by the true crime case of Polly Klaas who was taken from her house at knifepoint in 1993. Despite living in a world before Amber alerts and online profiles on missing persons, Klaas’s case drew widespread national attention. While she is not the primary person in detective Hart’s line of sight, her story influences the ways she navigates her investigation. It showcases the author’s exceptional capabilities in crafting a unique story with original characters that deal with the harsh realities of sexual assault, child endangerment, and kidnapping.
In When the Stars Go Dark, McLain weaves together the very personal narrative of her childhood experiences as a foster child in California. Detective Hart is a direct reflection of her adult understanding of what happened to her during the most formidable years of her life. In this way, it is an exquisite retelling of two real-life stories – a personal narrative alongside a real-world true crime case – that showcases her authorial talents and captivates the reader from start to finish. The attention to detail and the descriptors makes this detective mystery a poetic excursion towards truth and justice.
It must be noted that the beginning lays out several threads that the audience is expected to follow. At times, they become knotted and so tightly bound that one may experience difficulty pushing forward. But McLain makes it all worth it as the story continues to unfold and the threads begin to unravel with stunning twists and bizarre turns. It is a portion of what makes When the Stars Go Dark so power, as there are innumerable elements to every mystery and countless sides to every story.
If you’ve ever debated picking up a novel by Paula McLain, we highly recommend picking up When the Stars Go Dark. It is specially crafted for fans of detective mysteries and true crime while catering to individuals who may have experienced the all too horrific traumas of sexual assault, brutality, and coercion. The conversations in When the Stars Go Dark are so heavy at times that this approximately 350-page book feels like a ton in the palm of your hands, but McLain’s storytelling is so exceptional, it is worth its weight in gold.
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