A Field of Darkness (Madeline Dare Series #1)

A Field of Darkness (Madeline Dare Series #1)

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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446699495
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 07/11/2007
Series: Madeline Dare Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 622,257
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

CORNELIA READ lives in Berkely, California.

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.

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Field of Darkness (Madeline Dare Series #1) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 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.
bookappeal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Madeline Dare is a contradiction. Born into a family that once had wealth and power and still acts like they do, she's no stranger to traditional WASP culture. But relative poverty has given her a different perspective as well. Marriage to a well-grounded husband helps keep Madeline on the straight and narrow but Dean is often away for long stretches of work, leaving Madeline to her own devices. In this first novel of the series, she investigates an old murder because her cousin may have been involved. Intriguing plot but an interesting main character who may not appeal to all readers.
kageeh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't usually read mysteries as I find them too formulaic but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The writing, especially the dialogue and characterization, are snarky and excellent. If you scorn the idle rich, this one's for you. If you love the city of Syracuse, you may be a tad dismayed. I could not predict the ending, always the hallmark of a good mystery.
DebR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read's debut novel is a sharp, witty, articulate murder mystery full of quirky characters, fun pop culture references, and edgy (but not cruel) observations about human nature.The main character is Madeline Dare, a downstate NY debutante who grew up among wealth, but her particular branch of the family tree has gotten a bit shabby. She ends up married to Dean, an upstate farmboy-turned-inventor and they live in Syracuse where Maddie works as a journalist for a small weekly paper. She spends her days writing articles on such riveting topics as green bean casseroles and hot winter drinks, and dreaming of the day she and Dean can leave town and never look back.One day everything gets a little weird when Maddie is confronted with an old set of dog tags that her father-in-law uncovered when he was plowing a field - a field that happens to be the scene of a 20-year-old unsolved double homicide. The name on the dog tags is the name of Maddie's favorite cousin and she is gradually, reluctantly drawn into investigating this long-ago crime in order to prove he wasn't involved.I thought the plot was delightfully twisty, with enough clues to allow the reader to try to solve the crime along with Maddie, but enough turns and surprises to make me doubt my conclusions several times along the way.But my favorite thing about the story is the fascinating cast of characters, including Madeline herself. She's smart, funny, flawed, messy, and human. I love the fact that she isn't always perfectly likeable, although I did...like her, that is.I can't wait to see what Ms. Read writes next!
JulieFauble on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First book from this author. Good mystery, excellent writing. Worth watching for more from her.
BeckyJG on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is 1988, and cocaine, big hair, and Madonna are all the rage. Madeline Dare, a recovering debutante and cub journalist, lives in Syracuse, New York with her husband Dean. College-educated and a brilliant inventor, Dean is still a farmboy, a townie, and thus pretty much the direct opposite of Madeline, whose admittedly disjointed world growing up consisted in large part of coming out parties, summers at the extended family's "camp" in the Adirondacks, and boarding school. Madeline (sometimes Bunny, which is her Oyster Bay Long Island uber-WASP nickname) loathes everything about Syracuse except Dean and longs to get away. She works as a lifestyles reporter at the Syracuse Weekly, the local free rag, reporting in depth on such important topics as "Hot Drinks for Winter" and "Best Midway Food Eats."When Madeline learns about the gruesome 1969 murders of two beautiful, young, and never identified girls, she is horrified and intrigued. When her father-in-law--in the spirit of "I know something nobody else knows" tosses a set of dog-tags he plowed up in the field where the girls were found across the table at her, Madeline is terrified; the dog-tags belong to her beloved older cousin Lapthorne. What can a girl journalist do but commence an investigation? This Madeline does, an investigation she doggedly pursues even as people she knows begin to fall by the wayside, and even as it takes her to places--physical, psychological, personal--she'd really rather not venture.Cornelia Read calls her crime fiction "WASP Noir," and has an intimate knowledge of the culture about which she writes; she, herself, as the biography on her official website tells us, was "born into the tenth (and last) generation of her mother's family to live on Oyster Bay's Centre Island." The voice Read has created for Madeline's first person narrative is original and fresh. Maddie is smart and cynical, acutely self-aware and frequently self-deprecating. Her points of reference--cultural and pop-cultural, from Puccini to Joni Mitchell to the Brothers Grimm--are wide, deep, and extraordinarily clever (but without any did-you-catch-that-one authorial winks). I knew from the first page that I would like A Field of Darkness, but it was round about page 75 or so, when Maddie's mom "perkily misquotes Arlo Guthrie for the thousandth time," that I knew I would love it. A Field of Darkness is a brilliant first novel, an original take on a genre which is all too frequently tired and hackneyed.
joannalongbourne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first wonderful thing about this book is the writing which is truly unique. Read's writing is both witty and acerbic, both poignant and insightful. Madeline Dare finds herself exiled to Syracuse [Sore Excuse] as a result of marriage to her husband, Dean. Madeline describes her family¿s wealthy background: ¿my money¿s so old, there¿s none left¿. She has an exquisite irony about her background: ¿I grabbed the tabouleh I¿d made the night before out of the icebox. Well, okay, ¿fridge¿ or whatever. I come from that tribe of verbal conservatives who still say ¿Victrola¿ and ¿toe-mah-toe¿¿Old High Long Island, my first language.¿ It¿s tough being impoverished amidst a sea of extremely wealthy relatives¿Madeline is treated so badly by these relatives that even the servants feel sorry for her, as evidenced by one cook¿s habit of slipping Madeline a $20 whenever she can. Madeline¿s mother depends on the largesse of her boyfriend, Bonwit, who shares her passion for buying dented cans of food because of the reduced price. On the other hand, Madeline has a good sense of humor about it. Upon her great-grandmother¿s death, Madeline inherits her enormous shoe collection because she is the only girl in the family with the same size feet. As she¿s packing up the shoe collection, her aunt asks her what she is going to do with the shoes: ¿I thought I¿d wear them to exotic places they¿ve never been before. You know, like work.¿ Her relatives can be unbearably shallow and simultaneously deeply cruel as in this aside from an aunt during the great grandmother¿s funeral at a wonderful family camp in the Adirondacks, a place that is very dear to Madeline: ¿You realize, of course, that when your parents sold their shares in Camp, they were told it meant their children would never be allowed to buy back in?¿The story takes place in 1988. The scenes of Madeline¿s interactions with her in-laws are priceless. As someone who grew up in upstate New York, her descriptions of life in Syracuse and the locals are absolutely dead-on. Her in-laws are farmers who consider ¿working for wages¿ to be a cop-out from real life. She describes the industrial wasteland of contemporary Syracuse compared to the thriving metropolis of the 19th century: ¿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.¿ Her description of her local grocery store which she has dubbed ¿The Outpatient Grocery Store¿: ¿The owners knew most people in the neighborhood couldn¿t afford a car to get to the nicer, cheaper stores out in the burbs: the solidly clean P&Cs and Big Ms, the Wegmans in DeWitt with the big ¿international¿ cheese section. So, just because they could, these guys stocked The Outpatient with nothing but nasty old crap at lunar-colony trade-embargo prices.¿The mystery concerns the twenty-year old deaths of two young women who were found with their throats cut in a local cornfield. Madeline becomes involved when her father-in-law hands her a set of dog tags that he dug up a few years ago in that same corn field. The dog tags appear to have belonged to her cousin, Lapthorne. Despite being relegated to the foods/events section of her local weekly paper where she works, almost against her will Madeline takes on the murder case as an investigative piece. Despite her sometimes bumbling efforts, Madeline slowly zeroes in on the killer and the ending is pretty harrowing.
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cornelia Read is a recent discovery of mine. I picked up her third book, Invisible Boy, loved it, and was stoked to discover that it was part of a series and there were two more - A Field of Darkness is the first.Read's heroine, Madeline Dare, is smart and cynical and sassy. I said in my review of Invisible Boy that she reminded me a bit of Nora Charles from The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, played in the excellent 1930's-era movies by William Powell and Myrna Loy. Nora Charles was based on Lillian Hellman and, while Madeline doesn't have the sophistication of Nora, she does have the grit and sass - I bet she'll grow up to be Nora.These books are set in the late eighties and I suppose I also like them because I am the same age as Madeline so her experiences and milieu feel really familiar to me. In this book she is stuck in Syracuse, working for a weekly newspaper, and hating every second of it. When she discovers evidence from a murder of two young women attending the state fair in the late sixties with a possible connection to her family she's off and running.Ms. Read plots well and writes well and in Madeline Dare has created a character who has a genuine voice. I especially like that I don't always like Madeline - sometimes she's just too whiny for words - sounds odd, but sometimes we don't like people we care about. Even though she is often whiny and overly dramatic about her situation in this book, it reads in a very real manner. I remember what it's like to have finished college with tons of expectations and then to be clobbered over the head with that whole reality thing. Suddenly you're working a boring job in a place you don't like and it's all kind of gray and disappointing and it makes you really whiny because in your twenties you don't know that this stuff can ever change.I really enjoyed this book and look forward to her fourth one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jlparent on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Madeline is thrust into a cold-case investigation when dog tags left at the scene of a grisly murder years before have a family member's name on them. Overall I liked it; plenty of twists, smooth pacing, cultural references, and engaging characters. I had to warm to the author's descriptive style - at first it seemed over-done, like she was cramming stuff in but within a few pages that feeling vanished. It isn't as good as say, Gillian Flynn or Tana French, but it is still an engaging read.
jharkins on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I felt a real "kinship" with Maddie. I felt that she was written to be about my own age (early 40's), and I have heard her voice, casting observations on life, love, work, friends and herself, come from my own mouth. A much younger friend, listening to the audiobook with me, didn't feel the same kinship with Maddie.
shwetzel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cornelia Read is a rising star in the mystery field. Her protagonist, Madeline Dare, is a feisty, tough lady and a debutant dropout whose heart is in the right place.
swl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
LOVE this book. Atmospheric to the point that I had a somnambulent buzz of familiarity - the kind where the first half of the book was SO good, all the characters feel like one's own lovers, confidantes and enemies by the time you start reading the second half.I think what I liked best is that all the creepiness, longing, weariness etc. rang 100% true. If CR's family was not represented faithfully on these pages, you could have fooled me. CR's complicated relationship with Lapthorne just seemed to true and heart-rending to have been manufactured, even for a good cause (that being sustainable suspense) - Dean simply must be someone CR once loved (and thank you for not dooming the one lovely relationship) - and I could so imagine partying with Madeline and Ellis - and it's not just that I'm the same age - her riffs on 80's indulgence were so convincing and dear.As for what this bodes for CR's future: I don't get the feeling that she'll suffer a sophomore slide into ignominy. She's just too good at pacing, at creating a sympathetic but screwed-up narrator, at blending hopelessness with helplessness with longing. And sense of place, as well - I happen to share CR's feelings about Syracuse - but make it Anywhere, USA and I think CR would capture the subtle charms as well as the rough-edged flaws. I'll be buying the next one asap.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice first book. I’ll definitely read her next one.
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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