"Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town" by Adam Christopher

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

" Christmas. Hawkins, 1984. All Chief Jim Hopper wants is to enjoy a quiet first Christmas with Eleven, but his adopted daughter has other plans. Over Hopper's protests, she pulls a cardboard box marked 'New York' out of the basement - - - and the tough questions begin. Why did Hopper leave Hawkins all those years ago? What does 'Vietnam' mean? And why has he never talked about New York? Although he'd rather face a horde of demogorgons than talk about his own past. Hopper knows that he can't deny the truth any longer. And so begins the story of the incident in New York- - - the last big case before everything changed... Summer. New York City, 1977. Hopper is starting over after returning home from Vietnam. A young daughter, a caring wife, and a new beat as an NYPD detective make it easy to slip back into life as a civilian. But after shadowy federal agents suddenly show up and seize the files about a series of brutal, unsolved murders, Hopper takes matters into his own hands, risking everything to discover the truth. Soon Hopper is undercover among New York's notorious street gangs. But just as he's about to crack the case, a blackout rolls across the boroughs, plunging Hopper into a darkness deeper than any he's faced before. "

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In 1977, New York City was a disaster; men were trying to return to a normal life after Vietnam ended, gangs were on every street corner, and a serial killer, by the name 'Son of Sam,' was on the loose. But for Detective Jim Hopper, New York was housing another serial killer just for him- - - a killer who is killing Vietnam war veterans, and leaving behind a psychic calling card, known as the Zener cards.

Zener cards.

Adam Christopher is the chosen author to tell Stranger Things' fans about the most important homicide case that Jim Hopper ever worked on in the novel 'Darkness on the Edge of Town.' Fans may recall from season 2, when Eleven found a secret hatch in Hopper's cabin, it revealed boxes under the floor - one which was labeled 'New York.' This is that story.

The entire book is Hopper telling Eleven about his greatest homicide story from New York City. Readers get to meet new characters from Hopper's past, but the most memorable may be his partner in the Homicide Unit, Rosario Delgado (1977 was a time where Homicide Units didn't allow female detectives, and Delgado is one of the first of few that is allowed into the unit). Delgado, who is Cuban, but was raised in Queens, New York, has all the right attitude that wins over her partner, Hopper. The reader will realize that they are two-peas-in-a-pod.

Quickly, the story gets into the first case the two have together: the Zener card serial killer; here, we learn that there were two previous victims, both murdered the same way: stabbed five times with the wounds joining together to form a five-pointed star. Throughout the book, the story goes back and forth between 1977 and the present, where Eleven asks questions about the story, and also, Hopper questioning himself as to whether he should continue to tell Eleven the story.

But soon, we meet a very important man named Leroy Washington - a gang member who wants protection in exchange for the information that he holds- this leads Hopper to our villain: a cult leader who goes by the name Saint John. This villain believes that Satan is going to rise and destroy New York City.

Backtracking a little before, Hopper and Delgado are taken off the case of the Zener card murders, introducing readers to Special Agent Gallup. Gallup states that the third victim, Jacob Hoeler, was also a Special Agent, so the case is turned over to Federal Agents. "What you don't know, Detective, is that Jacob Hoeler is one of ours- - - Special Agent Jacob Hoeler. He was working on assignment, and the fact that he was killed in the course of his duties is of primary concern to my department. Therefore, we need to be sure that a most thorough investigation is carried out. In order to ensure that happens, we will be taking the case in-house. " Hopper, along with Delgado, refuse to let the case go, and secretly continue to work on it. But, as they dig deeper into the evidence and crime scenes, the two realize the murder case is a part of something much bigger - - - a cult that is armed with vehicles and weapons, ready to take over New York City for their leader, Saint John.

Readers get to see the story from both Hopper's and Delgado's point of view, which readers may question how Hopper knows Delgado's side of the story, but quickly to react, Eleven asks this very question for us: " 'Fair point,' said Hopper. 'But we - - - I mean, Delgado and me- - - we pieced it all together afterward. We had to interview everyone we could, and we put it all into a big official report. Actually, it took way longer to write that thing up than we spent on the investigation itself. We were even flown down to D.C. to present it to a bunch of anonymous suits in some federal building. They grilled us pretty well, too, although I ever found out who they all were. ' He grinned. ' Kinda sums the whole thing up, really.' " Even so, without Delgado's point of view, the story wouldn't have turned out as well as it did.

Hopper's obsession with cracking this case lands him in the center of it- - - he is recruited, not by choice, to the task force that is trying to top Saint John's big plan to destroy New York City. Leroy Washington, the informant from before, is Hopper's wing man for the mission, because Washington turns out to be a recruiting officer for the cult. Hopper is to pretend that he is a new recruit, and that he is an ex-cop, who just happened to 'murder' two people the night before. Hopper infiltrating the cult is one of the most exciting parts of the book, but the sequence of these scenes are much too short, leaving this reader disappointed.

Unfortunately, by this time, Delgado has become somewhat of a secondary character. She still works the case, being in the-know of Hopper going undercover, but we see little else of Delgado's character being developed. This is a missed opportunity indeed.

Although I enjoyed Christopher bringing Hopper's backstory to light, the writer is so detail oriented in his writing, that it bogged down much of the flow in the story. The reader is told things in almost every scene that come to nothing, and just seem to waste the reader's time. You may also find that the author uses the same words or physical actions to describe emotions for every single character (such as neck rolling to show stress), which gets old very quickly.

With that said, and only a few inconsistencies here and there, the book was very good. The story takes off pretty quickly and doesn't seem to slow down. The scenery descriptions put the reader right there with our favorite Hawkins Police Chief, Jim Hopper, but the best part about this book is that you don't have to be a Stranger Things' fan to enjoy it; anyone who enjoys Crime Fiction would love this story. Highly recommend!

- Hadley

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