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When the Stars Go Dark

Updated: May 11, 2021

When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain was a total #bookstagrammademedoit. I first heard about it from Sarah's Bookshelves podcast. She tends to never steer me wrong, so I chose this book as my purchase during Independent Bookstore Day #independentbookstoreday where I visited one of my favorite bookstores, Chaper2Books located in Hudson, WI. I picked up a copy of When the Stars Go Dark and a discounted copy of The Last Flight by Julie Clark, as well as let the kiddos pick out a book and snapped a picture with Brian, the owner. Peep my pics!


Anna Hart is a missing person's detective in San Francisco. She has made a career out of finding missing children, but each case still follows her. After suffering an unimaginable tragedy, Anna returns to her home town of Mendocino where her childhood starts to intersect with a string of missing girls in the area. Anna soon discovers that she was lead there for a reason and that is to help solve the case and find these girls. When the Stars Go Dark is a gritty suspense novel that will keep you turning the pages to solve the crime.

Mel's Thoughts:

When the Stars Go Dark is a different take on the standard police procedural. I found this one to be a total page turner, with great character development and a good mix of chapter cliff hangers. I found parts of the plot slightly predictable, but I chalk that up to the fact I read a lot of thrillers/mysteries/police procedurals.

Anna is a complex character and her story starts out alluding to a tragedy she just suffered. It is evident she has lost her child, but the details are unknown to the reader until the story progresses. Anna also unburdens some of her childhood experiences with losing her mother, entering foster care, facing abuse (though this is never fully addressed, just alluded to) and knowing a girl who went missing as a teenager. I love when police procedurals have a lead female detective and Anna is strong as nails. She reminded me a lot of Naomi in The Child Finder series. Strong, but troubled, and trying to work through her past demons by helping others.

This one does have some content warnings, so if you are a sensitive reader, I recommend you check them out before diving in. While this one is full of heavy themes, the story does end with resounding hope, which is ultimately what I love in a novel like this. I have seen tons of five star reviews, but something held me back to 4 or 4.5 stars. While I liked the storyline, I found some of the twists predictable.

Content warnings: death of mother, sexual assault of children, childhood neglect and abuse, abandonment, death of child, negative depictions of foster care, alcohol and drug abuse


4 - 4.5 stars

Read if you liked:

Long Bright River

The Child Finder

The Butterfly Girl

*Click the title links to read my full reviews*

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