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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller

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.

©2021 Paula McLain (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“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

What listeners say about When the Stars Go Dark

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Its all about the writing

The mystery part took a backseat to the writing and narration. I felt it was a little too long and drawn out but the the above made up for it.

10 people found this helpful

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Flat Characters, Shaggy Plot

I loved McClain’s last book and was so excited to learn she had a new literary mystery coming out. Oh boy. It’s... not good.

The primary issue is that the characters are desperately flat. Despite lots of attempted pulls at the reader’s heart strings, at no point do these people seem real.

The plotting issue is harder to pin down. Plenty happens, but I just didn’t really care about any of it.

As a side note, this book spends a lot of time on the Pauly Klaas kidnapping and murder. It’s not handled with as much sensitivity as one might hope. I remember that story so well and it felt kind of gross to have it awkwardly pasted into a novel just so the characters can lament how they wish their victim was more like Pauly Klaas, capable of equal press attention.

*Lest you think this is a comment on the media’s obsession with missing white girls, the protagonist’s case also features a missing (rich) missing white girl. Shrug emoji.

9 people found this helpful

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Truly Amazing

Beautiful powerful heart-breaking story. Amazingly written and equally as amazing is the narrator. A must-read

8 people found this helpful

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Not her best

Long boring predictable plot. Save your money.
Read her other books. They are much better

6 people found this helpful

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Reads Like a First Draft of a Good Story

Good story, well developed, believable characters based on author’s experiences. So frustrating to read the excessively repetitive descriptions and dialogue. Overly dramatic storytelling. Author should trust her readers to draw conclusions and interpret character’s motives. This book requires a better editor, if it had one at all. Reads like a first draft of a good story.

5 people found this helpful

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A dark story that needs to be told

How do we stop the abuse? So many components to this story, so many insights. Well done, read it in a day.

5 people found this helpful

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Great book

I couldn't stop listening to this book. I was awful what these girls and parents went through. I didn't realize this was a true story until the end.

4 people found this helpful

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if you enjoy depressing books

about pedophilia and animal abuse (such as the KILLING of a "beloved" pet, this one is for you- it sure isn't for me (to giving you a frame of reference I hate "cozy" mysteries, I like Jo Nesbo, Mark Dawson, Killing Eve, Dervla mcTiernan and TOUGH police procedurals, but this thing has ZERO HOPE, ZERO joy, and when it came to the miserable creature that is the main character ATTACKING her family pet, I took advantage of Audibles generous return policy. Not my cuppa (can't imagine it's anyone's).

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Read It

Engrossing murder mystery. Very emotional narrative about loss and coping with it. Very intense. Definitely recommend it.

3 people found this helpful

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Looking to read another mystery

I hope that Ms McLain writes another, maybe with the same characters
Thoroughly enjoyed the story the plot the characters and the reader
* * * * *
One of the better reads

3 people found this helpful