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Book Review:When the Stars Go Dark

A total departure for the author of The Paris Wife, Paula McLain’s emotionally intense and exceptionally well-written thriller entwines its fictional crime with real cases.”—People (Book of the Week) 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 true crime, trauma theory, and a hint of the metaphysical, this tense, affecting story is about fate, unlikely redemption, and what it takes, when the worst happens, to reclaim our lives–and our faith in one another”–

A mystery that is more thought-provoking than murder and mayhem, When the Stars Go Dark touches on what makes a family, and what can break a family. A fallible, strong, female detective, Anna Hart tugs at you throughout the book, praying she solves the case but hoping it doesn’t tear her apart in the process. And if you are doing the 2021 yearly reading challenge, it can fit in categories 13,29, and 35!

Past Tense by Lee Child

Book jacket cover of Past TenseI always await the arrival of a new Lee Child book with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. I have enjoyed each one but there’s always a fear  in the back of my mind that at some point the quality is going to slip. I’m happy to report that it is not with this book! Booklist agrees:  “*Starred Review* En route to San Diego from Maine, Jack Reacher finds himself looking at a road sign saying Laconia, New Hampshire. Reacher recognizes the name; it’s the place where his father was born. He decides to take a quick detour and have a look at the place. Meanwhile, not far away, a Canadian couple’s car is acting up. They manage to drive it to an out-of-the-way motel before it breaks down. As Reacher tries to track down some proof that his father once lived in Laconia (official records show no trace of anyone named Reacher), the Canadians begin to suspect that the motel’s owner isn’t being entirely truthful with them, and that, despite his repeated promises, helping them get their car fixed is the last thing he wants to do. Child expertly juggles a pair of seemingly unrelated story lines, keeping them moving simultaneously, until, inevitably, the lines merge and violence ensues. The twenty-third Reacher novel springs some interesting surprises about Jack’s family and contains one of Reacher’s most cold-blooded acts of violence. As always, the prose is lean and efficient, the action scenes are well designed, and Reacher is as formidable an opponent as one could imagine (just this side of a Transformer). Another first-class entry in a series that continues to set the gold standard for aspiring thriller authors.” And for those of you that are already eagerly awaiting mr. Child’s next book, check out our “If you Like Lee Child” booklist. I suspect you’ll find something to enjoy there!

The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan

Perfect Girl book jacketThis enthusiastic book recommendation comes by way of my wife who a) reads a lot; b) is way smarter than I am; and c) hasn’t liked one of the books I bring home for her as much as this one in quite a while. Since I haven’t read it, I’m going to include the Booklist Review (and they really liked it!) Booklist Review: “*Starred Review* Musical prodigy Zoe Maisey’s attempts to build a new life come crashing down at her concert, and the next morning her mum, Maria, is dead. Three years earlier, 14-year-old Zoe drove away from a party, not knowing her Coke had been spiked, and had an accident that killed her three teenage passengers, leading to her conviction. Her parents’ marriage fell apart, and Maria and Zoe moved from Devon to Bristol, where Maria met and married widowed Chris Kennedy, and she and Zoe started their second-chance life. But the concert incident reveals Zoe’s past, which Maria had kept secret from Chris as they raised Zoe; Chris’ son, Lucas; and their baby daughter, Grace. After Maria’s death, Zoe reaches out to Sam Locke, the lawyer who defended her after the accident, a tricky call because of Sam’s current medical issues; his affair with Maria’s older sister, Tessa; and Zoe’s innocence in Maria’s death. Macmillan (What She Knew, 2016) uses multiple characters’ voices to tell the stories of Lucas, a skilled pianist and aspiring filmmaker, and Zoe, whose life lessons serve her well in distinguishing between truth and justice. Masterfully drawn characters and intricate plotting make this a stunning piece of crime fiction.”