Paula McLain has written an intense historical thriller detailing the life of a seasoned detective haunted by cases from her past. While in the past McLain has written historical fiction that takes place further in the past, this title is still set in the past, albeit the 1970s to the 1990s. This book is also sprinkled with true events, but it is a decided shift from her other novels.
When the Stars Go Dark digs into the life of missing persons detective Anna Hart. After a tragic event rocks her life, Anna is desperate for an escape. She heads to Mendocino, California to grieve and process what has happened. Mendocino is the closest town Anna has to home. Having grown up in the foster care system, Mendocino was the place where she found two of her most supportive foster parents. When she arrives, she expects comfort, safety, and most importantly solitude, but instead Anna finds that her work has followed her. A local girl has gone missing, leaving Anna feeling like she has to help.
This new missing persons case reminds Anna of her childhood when a local girl in her community went missing and was later found murdered. That case is still unsolved and has left the community changed. Anna volunteers her services to help with the new missing girl case. The more she works, the more the past and present interfere with each other. During her career as a missing persons detective, Anna focused on how victims come into contact with violent predators. Her knowledge of that process comes in handy as she begins searching for the missing girl. Her search slowly becomes an obsession. Anna will do anything to find this girl and to not let the past repeat itself, but soon realizes that she needs the help of others if she wants to solve this case and bring the girl home.
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