“Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town” is the second official novel, which delves deeper, into the immensely popular Netflix series, “Stranger Things.” The novel explores the life that Hawkins Police Chief, Jim Hooper, lived while working as a homicide detective in New York City. The year is 1977, Hopper, having served several tours in Vietnam, is married to Diane, a school teacher, and is a father to a six year old, daughter, Sara. Once he returned from war, the slow town pace of Hawkins, Indiana, no longer fulfilled him. Seeking a new challenge, Hopper uprooted his family, and moved to New York; eventually, he settles in as a member of the NYPD. (As an aside: In the series “Stranger Things,” Jim Hopper is played by David Harbour, who has received one Golden Globe nomination, and two Emmy nominations, for his portrayal of the character).
The novel is written by Adam Christopher (Empire State), and it begins in 1984. Hopper’s adopted daughter, Eleven, is bored, because, it is Christmastime, and her friends, especially Mike, are off visiting family. She discovers a box of Hopper’s old case files, pertaining to his work in New York. Hopper’s hesitant, at first, to tell her about his life as a homicide detective, but ultimately relents. The narrative from that moment forward, primarily focuses on the sweltering summer of 1977, but does, occasionally, return to 1984, as Hopper interacts with Eleven. The chapters that take place in 1984, are mostly based off of questions Eleven asks, or comments she makes, about whatever part of the story Hooper has so far relayed to her. (As an aside: The character of Eleven is portrayed in the series “Stranger Things” by Millie Bobby Brown, who has twice been nominated for an Emmy for her work on the show).
Hopper and his partner, detective Rosario Delgado, are on the trail of a suspected serial killer. The killer leaves behind cards with odd designs on them, at the site of each murder. The detectives are hard pressed to decipher their meanings. As Hopper and Delgado delve further into their investigation, they begin to suspect that the killer has help, not just from some who are willing to follow his lead, but many individuals, who take orders from him. The suspicion is generated by a police informant named Leroy Washington; he claims to have information that is pertinent to the case. Further complicating the investigation is the involvement of a federal agency, that wants to take over the case, and remove Hopper and Delgado from having anything to do with solving the murders. The agency even goes so far as to seize all of the evidence that has been collected in the process. The strong arming tactics of the agency doesn’t sit well with the detectives, who decide to circumvent the direct order they are given by their captain, to drop the case.
The central figure of Hopper and Delgado’s investigation, is a man who goes by the name ‘Saint John.’ He is supposedly the leader of a vast army of gang members who used to belong to different warring factions, but are now united as a gang known as The Vipers. The rumor is, that ‘Saint John’ is planning something horrid to occur in New York City, but other than that, not much else is known. Hooper decides that the only way to get to the truth of what ‘Saint John’ and The Vipers are planning, is if he fully immerses himself in the gang lifestyle, while working undercover.
Who is ‘Saint John?’ Is he really an all powerful gang leader or a delusional person, who has convinced others to go along with his plans? What catastrophe does he want to unleash on New York City? Does Hopper find out in time to stop ‘Saint John’ and his followers from carrying out their mission? If New York City is really in danger, what lengths will Hopper have to go to, in order to protect it?
“Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town” was published on May 28, 2019, by Del Rey, a branch of Ballantine Books, which is owned by Random House. The novel is parts fantasy, suspenseful crime thriller, and science fiction. It also includes a touch of the paranormal. Christopher does an excellent job of capturing the overall demeanor of the character of Jim Hopper. There was nothing that Hopper does in the book in 1977, that I couldn’t see him taking part in during the 1980s, in order to solve a crime, or help Eleven and her friends, defeat the latest enemy of Hawkins, Indiana. The 432 page novel was well-written and well-paced. For fans of the series, especially those who enjoyed the first novel, “Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds,” as well as those of you wanting to learn more about the past of one of the show’s integral characters, you will more than likely, find the novel a worthwhile read.