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A Field of Darkness (Madeline Dare Series #1)
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A Field of Darkness (Madeline Dare Series #1)

3.8 22
by Cornelia Read

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Madeline Dare would be the first to tell you her money is so old there's none left. A former socialite from an aristocratic family in decline, Maddie is a tough-talking, would-be journalist exiled to the rust belt of upstate New York. Her prospects for changing her dreary lifestyle seem dim--until a set of dog tags found at a decades-old murder site is linked to her


Madeline Dare would be the first to tell you her money is so old there's none left. A former socialite from an aristocratic family in decline, Maddie is a tough-talking, would-be journalist exiled to the rust belt of upstate New York. Her prospects for changing her dreary lifestyle seem dim--until a set of dog tags found at a decades-old murder site is linked to her family. Shocked into action, Maddie embarks on a search that takes her from the derelict smokestacks of Syracuse to the posh mansions of Long Island's Gold Coast. But instead of the warm refuge of home, this prodigal daughter soon uncovers dark, sinister secrets that will violently challenge everything she believes in and holds dear.

Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
The mystery component is slender and too attenuated to be suspenseful, but the clipped accents of Madeline's sardonic voice keep calling us back to be regaled by the pomps and cruelties of "those smug and didactic and murderous City-on-a-Hill prigs" and help her mourn "the traditions of my people, my tribe, a beauty that is as lost as the passenger pigeon."
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Read's impressive debut stars the unusual Madeline Dare, a jumble of contradictions who comes from an old-money Long Island family but is married to Dean, a railroad worker, in Syracuse, N.Y., which our heroine likens in a moment of exasperation to "some mental dust bowl." Dean's job requires frequent travel, while Madeline writes fluff features for the local newspaper. Nothing in her background prepares her for trying to solve the bizarre 20-year-old murder of two young women, a crime that her cousin, Lapthorne Townsend, might have been involved in. Read writes with verve and passion as Madeline sets out to clear her cousin's name, an effort that develops into a much larger, life-changing struggle. Some readers may find Madeline's volatile character less than credible, but the fine supporting cast-notably husband Dean and flaky, flamboyant friend Ellis-consistently delights. The author's sharp social commentary on everything from the idle rich to the environment adds to the pleasure. 5-city author tour. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Blue-blood Madeline Dare settles in Syracuse, NY, with her blue-collar husband and finds a hobby in uncovering a web of intrigue and family secrets. A debut already acclaimed by Lee Child and Ken Bruen. Read lives in Berkeley, CA. Five-city author tour (with Lee Child). Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Snobbery, bigotry and cultural clashes are brought to a boil by malicious talk of an old murder. Madeline Dare, the poor relation of an old North Shore Long Island WASP family, is a child of oft-divorced parents brought up in a world of privilege even as the money trickles away. Married to Dean Bauer, an inventive farm son who's often away working in Canada, Madeline hates her job on a small Syracuse paper-and hates everything else about Syracuse. On a visit to the family farm, her father-in-law shows her dog tags he uncovered in a field where two unidentified young girls were found 19 years before, their throats cut, posed in a bizarre tableau. The tags bear the name of her favorite cousin, Lapthorne Townsend. In an attempt to prove his innocence, Madeline starts investigating the murders without involving the police. The girls had been seen at the State Fair with two soldiers from Camp Drum, but the silhouettes they posed for have disappeared. When Madeline finds the artist murdered, clues at the crime scene lead her to realize that a serial killer is at work. She and her friend Ellis shuttle between her relatives' crumbling estates and lowlife bars before more murders bring to light the shattering truth. Read's sensational debut features spot-on descriptions of upstate-downstate conflicts, strong characterizations and a fascinating plot.

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
Madeline Dare Series , #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.87(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Field of Darkness

By Cornelia Read

Mysterious Press

Copyright © 2006 Cornelia Read
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-892-96023-X

Chapter One

There are people who can be happy anywhere. I am not one of them.

When the house on the next street went up in flames for the second night in a row, I wondered again what the hell I was doing in Syracuse. Let me say right up front that those fires had nothing to do with the murdered sisters. They'd been dead nineteen years by then, their throats cut one state-fair night back in 1969 when I was three thousand miles away, about to start grade school in California.

Still, if I think of those girls, of everything that happened once I knew, it's the image of that twice-burnt house I flash on first. Like maybe it was one long sly Dada-surrealist wink from the universe, a warning I should have been hip enough to catch.

The first night was already hot, so still the whine of a neighbor's dog carried right through our bedroom window. I heard a screen door yaw wide to let him out, the tired spring slapping it closed behind, the click of canine toenails on sidewalk. I kept turning my pillow over and over, trying to find one cool spot on which to rest my cheek, but by the time that dog scratched to be let back in, I'd given up on sleep and rolled my grumpy ass right out of bed.

Wandering through our apartment, I wished for a breath of air from the second-story porch, just ashred of stray breeze meandering this far inland. No such luck. I ducked my head under the kitchen faucet and stretched out along the seven-foot legless purple Naugahyde sofa my husband Dean dragged home from a train car he'd rehabbed.

I hated this object, if only because the thing made my frail Waspy castoffs look even more ridiculous. The pair of Hepplewhite demi-lune tables. The painted Bavarian linen press. The stately between-wars globe amidst whose black oceans you could still find Ceylon and Formosa and the Polish Corridor.

I was twenty-five that summer, and everything I owned was scratched and warped, ring-marked by generations of abandoned cocktails. It was pure jetsam, the crap that gets thrown overboard on purpose. My money is so old there's none left.

In that sense, Syracuse and I deserved each other. The place used to churn out everything from rifles to soda ash, helicopters to typewriters, but by the time I showed up they'd paved over the Erie Canal and gutted the great mills.

There were still traces of those glory days if you knew where to look, things like our radiator covers, made of the steel sheets from which Remington and Smith-Corona letter-key stems had been punched, leaving behind a delicate herringbone tracery. The ghosts of history are in the details, in the negative space.

I scrunched my pillow against the sofa arm and started reading a garage-sale paperback of In Cold Blood. Four pages on, I heard this long, dull fwhooomp from outside-noise so deep it echoed in my ribs.

There was a pillar of smoke framed all majestic in the porch doorway. It twisted black against the city-pink night sky, billows delineated by hundreds of thousands of red-gold sparks, pinpoint gems helixing up to join the stars. Exactly three a.m., if you believed the clock in the stove.

Soon there were fire trucks in the distance, their Doppler-effect wails punctuated with staccato chatter-and-yelp as they barreled through each intersection. When the engines rolled into the next street, they cut the sirens but kept all the lights going.

I stood up, dazzled by flashbulb pops of color from between the tight-packed old triple-deckers-strobing to pick out every dent in the alleyway garbage cans. I chucked the book and snaked on my flipflops.

Outside, an ancient Oldsmobile muttered up the hill. It crossed the bright alley's mouth, caught in momentary silhouette: exhaust blue with oil, wheel wells rusted to filigree. The fire sucked moisture from the air, tightening the skin along my cheeks.

I cut across the tar-soft street and between the woodframe hulks facing ours. For just a second, coming out the other side, it was like stepping into one of that guy Weegee's photos from a forties copy of Life: black-and- white, some police-scanner tragedy back when everyone wore hats and cars were bulbous as the Hindenburg.

I blinked and it was just my neighbors milling slack-jawed, tank tops and stretch shorts bursting with that translucent flesh I always attribute to Kool smoke and government cheese. I stepped in among them and chastised myself: no worse snob than a poor relation.

Helmeted firemen, sweat-slicked in rubber coats, rushed to yank down equipment. They raised a ladder and we sighed, our eyes fixed on the rooftop flames, the heavy hose-arcs of water. We stood mesmerized until the trucks left, then stumbled home with that aftermath smell of bucket-doused campfire caught in our teeth. Insult to injury.

How absurd that it should all happen again the next night, the absentee owner maybe wanting to squeeze just that little bit more from his insurance. Three in the morning and there I was back out on the sofa, reading Capote and looking up in response to the onslaught of crackling noise.

For a minute I thought I should peel myself off the Naugahyde and shake Dean awake, but it was only an hour before his alarm would go off, even on a Sunday. For him that summer was all dawn-to-dusk welding and invention, at his family's farm or with a railgrinder crew in Canada.

I should have gone to bed myself, but waited until after they'd put out the second fire. In the quiet that followed, there was the thump of a great storm sweeping in from the west. I knew the air would chill and sweeten in its wake.

A crack of street light spilled inward when I opened our bedroom door. Dean's long legs were tangled in the top sheet, his summer-gilt hair bright against the pillow. I sat on the edge of the mattress and he stirred half-awake, pulling me in close when I stretched out beside him.

I'll say again that the fires had nothing to do with the dead girls, but still those two nights are what kicked it all off for me. They were the last time I found sleep without first having to acknowledge, in the hollow dark, at least partial guilt for someone else's murders.


Excerpted from A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read Copyright © 2006 by Cornelia Read. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

CORNELIA READ lives in Berkely, California.

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Field of Darkness (Madeline Dare Series #1) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In A Field of Darkness Cornelia Read gives the reader a lot more than a wonderful mystery thriller that keeps us guessing up to the last pages. Her protagonist, Madeline Dare, is compelling ¿ a quirky, gutsy, smart-as-hell woman who lives in un-glamorous Syracuse in the shadow of once-great family wealth. In addition to a gritty and intense plot Read¿s writing is peppered with precise social observations that bring to mind Tom Wolfe and Jay McInerney and a poet¿s ability at stunning metaphor. All in all, a great debut.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I genuinely enjoyed this. Definitely made me want to continue onto the next book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lamest, most boring book I have ever read. I always try and finish a book once I start and I DID finish, but what a struggle.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this would make an amazing movie. Great mystery without getting too heavy. Well written, you easily connect with main character, and being from WNY, reading about the area was a lot of fun. There were enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes, but enough information to keep your own theories alive. I truly enjoyed this book.
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Excellent with well developed persona
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harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1988 coming from Long Island affluence, though the poorer side of the extended family, Madeline Dare surprises her family and fiends when she marries railroad worker Dean Bauer and moves to his hometown of Syracuse, New York. Madeline struggles with her venture outside of civilization especially since her spouse is on the road, make that the rails, in Canada a lot. While Dean is away from home, Madeline writes fluffy articles for the Syracuse Weekly newspaper. --- Madeline visits Dean¿s family farm. Her father-in-law shows her the dog tags of Lapthorne Townsend, her favorite cousin from the Oyster Bay, Long Island kin, that he discovered in a field in which two unidentified girls were found murdered with their throats cut in 1969. With a need to prove Lapthorne¿s innocence, Madeline investigates the cold case homicides. --- A FIELD OF DARKNESS is a terrific chick lit amateur sleuth starring a delightful in your face protagonist on a crusade to prove her relative could not have killed anyone two decades ago. The story line is filled with plausible twists as the heroine stumbles, rumbles, and tumbles her investigation. Madeline¿s asides on social issues add to the fun of a wonderful tale ably augmented by strong support characters who mange to bring the best and worst, most times both of magnificent Madeline. --- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
scenes overly descriptive much to many adjectives, it left me shaking my head. But the story was good.