When I saw that one of my favorite historical fiction authors, Paula McLain, (The Paris Wife, Circling The Sun, and Love and Ruin) had written a police detective crime novel, I jumped at the chance to read it. When The Stars Go Dark does not disappoint.
Anna Hart is a San Francisco police detective working with an initiative called Project Searchlight that focuses on crimes against children, including sexual abuse, abduction, and murder. Anna is extremely devoted to her job, at the expense of her family life. After a tragedy strikes, her husband requests that she leave for a while. Anna heads to the last place she called home, Mendocino, California. She lived there with a loving foster family between the ages of 8 -18.
Anna arrives in Mendocino on September 15, 1993, the same day a fifteen-year-old girl, is reported missing. Cameron Curtis is the adopted daughter of a retired movie star and a movie producer. At the same time, a local mother gets a call that from a psychic who tells her she believes her daughter, Shannan, is dead. Finally worried, the mother reports that Shannan hasn’t been seen since June.
Anna’s former high school friend, Will Flood, is now the sheriff, with limited support staff. Having nothing else to do, Anna helps him with the investigation to find Cameron. After talking to the psychic, she also begins to search for Shannan. On October 1, 1993, Polly Klaas is abducted during a slumber party in nearby Petaluma. It is interesting how the author is able to weave together this real-life murder with the fictional story. While Polly’s case gathers national attention, the Curtis family has tried to keep their daughter’s case out of the news. Anna must convince them to see the benefit of having community support with the search for Cameron.
Anna is a very complex woman. She is dealing with her own demons of being neglected as a child, the guilt of being separated from her half-siblings, the deaths of her foster parents, and her recent family tragedy. She skillfully uses her own upbringing, police training, and a little help and encouragement from the psychic to solve the crimes involving Cameron and Shannan. Afterward, she must decide whether to go work on the Polly Klaas investigation or to go home and face the issues with her husband. Before she leaves, Sheriff Flood encourages her to come back to work with him on other missing children cases. Perhaps this is the first in a series??
4 plus-Stars. I read the Kindle edition which is 384 pages. The book is expected to be published on April 13th, 2021. Thanks to the awesome folks at Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Books and NetGalley for my advanced reader copy.