April 18, 2021

When The Stars Go Dark

When The Stars Go Dark

by Paula McLain

Published April 13, 2021
by Ballantine Books

Rating: 3 Stars ⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Mystery


Anna is an investigator of missing children. After a personal tragedy, she’s taking time off work and decides to return to her “hometown” for some down time. When she sees a flyer for a missing girl, Cameron Curtis, memories from her own youth and the disappearance of her acquaintance Jenny come flooding back. Unable to disengage and take the personal time she needs, Anna reaches out to her old friend Will who happens to be heading the investigation and offers her services.


There was A LOT going on in this novel – with Anna, with the investigation (and several others), and with the history of the town and characters. Chapters tended to alternate between the present (likely set in the late 1990s because the internet was just taking off) and Anna’s past with her two siblings being taken away and Anna going through the foster care system. The present storyline presented several investigations – the disappearance of Cameron Curtis in addition to two other current potential kidnappings, Jenny’s death when Anna lived in Mendocino, and hitchhiking murders that occurred in the 1970s. With all the various plot lines came a lot of characters and a lot of back stories. The connections were hard to find and the characters were very hard for me to keep track of.

While I generally enjoyed the back stories and subplots, it ended up being just TOO MUCH. For example, I felt Anna’s entire personal crisis could have been cut. It was addressed in the first couple chapters, largely ignored for the middle 95% of the book, and then thrown in at the end to wrap everything up. It explained why Anna went to Mendocino (kind of), but otherwise served very little purpose to the overall story. On top of that, I felt like it was used as a literary tool to hook the reader by giving us super vague and upsetting details in the beginning without any actual information, but then was so ignored for so much of the book that I kind of stopped caring.

We had so much of Anna’s backstory that I felt really bogged down by the details and actually missed anything about her personally. She was hard to connect to and even with so much history, felt like an “unknown” to me.

Much of the book felt like it was just setting up plot lines in order to create a series. I have no idea if this is the case but diving so deep into the police procedural for the other kidnappings often felt unnecessary and made the book overly long. It also introduced a lot more characters which added to my struggle of already keeping everyone straight.

While overall I did enjoy this book, it wasn’t one I needed to pick up constantly or couldn’t put down. Unfortunately, it probably won’t really stick with me. I was actually a little surprised it wasn’t a debut and think it could have been much better if the subplots had been trimmed or even cut entirely.

If you enjoy complex police procedurals and character studies, this may be a good one for you!

Thank you to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for a copy of this novel.

General Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Thriller 0 Replies to “When The Stars Go Dark”