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When the Stars Go Dark
Cover of When the Stars Go Dark
When the Stars Go Dark
A Novel
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • GOOD MORNING AMERICA BUZZ PICK • “A total departure for the author of The Paris Wife, McLain’s emotionally intense and exceptionally...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • GOOD MORNING AMERICA BUZZ PICK • “A total departure for the author of The Paris Wife, McLain’s emotionally intense and exceptionally...
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  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • 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.

Excerpts-

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    The night feels shredded as I leave the city, through perforated mist, a crumbling September sky. Behind me, Potrero Hill is a stretch of dead beach, all of San Francisco unconscious or oblivious. Above the cloud line, an eerie yellow sphere is rising. It’s the moon, gigantic and overstuffed, the color of lemonade. I can’t stop watching it roll higher and higher, saturated with brightness, like a wound. Or like a door lit entirely by pain.

    No one is coming to save me. No one can save anyone, though once I believed differently. I believed all sorts of things, but now I see the only way forward is to begin with nothing, or whatever is less than nothing. I have myself and no one else. I have the road and the snaking mist. I have this tortured moon.

    I drive until I stop seeing familiar landmarks, stop looking in my rearview to see if someone is following me. In Santa Rosa, the Travelodge is tucked behind a superstore parking lot, the whole swath of it empty and overlit, like a swimming pool at night with no one in it. When I ring the bell, the night manager makes a noise from a back room and then comes out cheerfully, wiping her hands on her bright cotton dress.

    “How are you?” she asks. The world’s most innocuous question, impossible to answer.

    “Fine.”

    She holds out the registration card and a purple pen, the dimpled flesh under her arm unfurling like a wing. I feel her looking at my face, my hair. She watches my hands, reading upside down. “Anna Louise Hart. That’s sure a pretty name.”

    “What?”

    “Don’t you think so, baby?” Her voice has the Caribbean in it, a rich, warm slant that makes me think she calls everyone “baby,” even me.

    It’s hard work not to flinch at her kindness, to stand in the greenish cast of the fluorescent bulb and write down the number of my license plate. To talk to her as if we’re just any two people anywhere, carrying on without a single sorrow.

    She finally gives me my key, and I go to my room, shutting the door behind me with relief. Inside there’s a bed and a lamp and one of those oddly placed chairs no one ever sits in. Bad lighting flattens everything into dull rectangles, the tasteless carpet and plastic-­looking bedspread, the curtains missing their hooks.

    I set down my duffel in the center of the bed, take out my Glock 19 and tuck it under the stiff pillow, feeling reassured to have it nearby, as if it’s an old friend of mine. I suppose it is. Then I grab a change of clothes, and start the shower, taking care to avoid the mirror as I undress, except to look at my breasts, which have hardened into stones. The right is hot to the touch, with a blistered red mound surrounding the nipple. I run the water in the shower as hot as it will go and stand there, being burned alive, with no relief at all.

    When I climb out, dripping, I hold a washcloth under the faucet before microwaving it, sodden, until it smokes. The heat feels volcanic as I press it hard against myself, singeing my hands as I bend double over the toilet bowl, still naked. The loose flesh around my waist feels as rubbery and soft against my arms as a deflated life raft.

    With wet hair, I walk to the all-­night drugstore, buying ACE bandages and a breast pump, ziplock bags, and a forty-­ounce bottle of Mexican beer. They only have a hand pump in stock, awkward and time-­consuming. Back in my room, the heavy outmoded television throws splayed shadows on the bare wall. I pump with the sound off on a Spanish soap opera, trying to distract myself from the ache of the...

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    Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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When the Stars Go Dark
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A Novel
Paula McLain
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Paula McLain
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