Some things grow in the darkness. Like potatoes. And evil...
Where Stars Won’t Shine, by Patrick Lacey, starts with an editor’s note regarding Charles Williamson’s true crime book Birth of a Monster. No, it’s not a real book, but for the purpose of Lacey’s novel, Birth of a Monster is a non-fiction book about the mass murderer Tucker Ashton. Ashton went on a killing spree across the country, uploading videos of his crimes before finally coming home to Marlowe, Massachusetts where his first murder was committed. On the day of the book’s release, Williamson put a noose around his neck and jumped. Not because he wanted to die, but because he needed to escape the monster that had gotten in to him and refused to leave. The same monster he wrote the book about.
After the author’s suicide we are introduced to the main characters. Ivy, whose husband was killed by Tucker Ashton, Zeke and his girlfriend Amy—Zeke runs the serial killer site Killwithathrill.com and is a huge fan of Ashton—and lastly there’s Ethan. I’m not sure Ethan’s connection to Tucker or why he’s chosen to be a part of the final showdown, however he’s a good character and motivated by his sick daughter.
Each character is being drawn to Marlowe by supernatural forces. Similar to how he was able to infiltrate the author of Birth of a Monster, Ashton manipulates the world around each character and brings them to Marlowe…a new Marlowe, one that doesn’t necessarily exist in the same dimension as the rest of the world.
The book jumps nicely between past, present, and various POVs while the reader learns more about each character and Ashton’s killing spree. We are exposed to his childhood, family, and first kill. As well as the fact that no one knows where Ashton is at the moment. He disappeared from the asylum he was committed to, and the general consensus is he’s dead. This aspect bothered me a bit, because it seems to be a very big deal if a patient/criminal just vanishes from incarceration. Yet that doesn’t seem to phase anyone and most accept that he’s dead with no proof.
Where Stars Won’t Shine is very visceral and plays out like a movie. Ivy has graphic hallucinations where she envisions blood coating her surroundings, people’s faces melting, and those scenes are very clearly described as if you’re watching a film. Events unfold how they do in movies too, where perhaps more emphasis is put on the visuals created than the logic of the events. It is a supernatural book though, so a lot of it is explained away by that. In this new Marlowe, created by Tucker—from beyond the grave, perhaps—Ivy, Amy, and Ethan are trapped and Zeke has been possessed by Tucker. Now they must navigate through Ashton’s victims, who have been reanimated by the killer, and discover if there’s a way out or even better, a way to kill Tucker Ashton.
Lacey gets kudos on his writing style, length of chapters, character development, and dialogue. It’s a fun book. The imagery makes up for the lack of tying up a few loose ends, but one thing I would really like to see more of is how Tucker Ashton becomes what he is now. As his murder videos go viral, Tucker seems to grow in power. But it would be nice to know what took him from a mass murderer to a supernatural entity, able to call on the forces of darkness to assist him. What made him cross the gap that killers before him don’t. Overall though, I still give this read 4 out of 5 stars!
In our current age of serial killer idolization, maybe an ind-depth book about the 'Birth of Ashton' will be on Patrick Lacey’s publishing schedule in the near future. I think fans of his would enjoy more on this killer. Until then grab your copy of Where Stars Won’t Shine here.