Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Field of Darkness- Book Review

Cornelia Read is definitely a tart, and I think you know when I say that, it is a very good thing. My Book Choice My friend Mari ran across a blog a while back called Naked Authors, which a tart like me can hardly ignore. I've been following them and reading (shockingly, nobody streaks or flashes; they are a classy bunch). I was so enamored of the group name that I looked into the authors and their books. Several looked intriguing, but the pair by Cornelia Read caught my eye most strongly. Being the orderly person than I am *shoots evil eye at laughing section*, I started with the first. The Author I don't know Ms. Read in person, though she has graciously friended me on Facebook, but I've read a fair bit, particularly details that Madeline Dare is relatively autobiographical. I would definitely like to sit down for a couple boilermakers with either woman. What strikes me most strongly though, is how two people from such opposite backgrounds (she and I) might have struck such similar symptom profiles. Since Madeline is the book's main character, I will leave my comments to her, not knowing where the 'mostly autobiographical' and 'not this detail' lines cross. Madeline is from 'money so old it is gone', complete with the delusionally snobbish trappings of relatives who have never done anything to merit their privilege (killing entire lakes for profit notwithstanding), yet hold onto all of the pomp and hauteur. Madeline however, sees them for what they are, and is critical, while simultaneously somehow yearning to not be the poor relation. Madeline was 'abandoned' by her father in youth, and Cornelia pulls a writing coup by letting us believe first person Madeline really sees it that way, but giving us enough information to realize it is a failure of the man and marriage, not an actual abandonment of the child. Madeline's life after though, seems to be a mix of 'proving herself worthy' and moderately self destructive 'I couldn't possibly be worthy' behaviors (this is where the symptom similarities to the tart came in). The Book That brings us to the present story and action... Madeline lives, much to her disgust, in Syracuse, New York, with her often gone welder/inventor husband (who I ADORE—it was a nice trick to have him so wonderful but gone so he couldn't be counted on much). She works for the local newspaper, writing fluff pieces. One day at lunch at her in-laws, her creepy brother-in-law tells her about a long-ago murder case and shows her a set of dog tags he found at the field, tags he never turned in to the police, and that happen to belong to a second cousin of Madeline's. The cousin is not just her favorite relative, but as the story goes on, proves to be her only relative who isn't bottom of the barrel horrible. Madeline struggles with herself. She wants to solve the case for the sake of the two girls killed, and an internal ethic never mentioned, but obvious, but there is also a deeply seeded need to clear her cousin. From there it is a wild ride, a few more dead bodies, twists and turns---a wonderfully written solving of an old mystery with new consequences. My Favorite Things This is, above all things, a smart book. Details are well researched, from photography and lighting, to roses, to heirloom firearms. Every necessary detail had a reason Madeline knew what she was talking about, and all of it was given in a subtle, well-ahead-of-time way so that I never argued with the narrator (something I often do if something feels contrived). Madeline's wit, too, in her observations about her family, her coworkers, her city, and herself, are laugh-out-loud funny, even while often invoking pity. It was a brilliant way to balance the very dark events—a knife wielding M.O. of a murderer hung up on old German Fairy tales *shivers*. And finally, Cornelia's skill at juxtaposition is amazing. There is a Nazi man-servant of Madeline's uncle (who her mother lives with), who isn't softened in his views, but is still somehow sympathetic, especially compared to the actual family he serves. Contrasting the failings of old 'society' and the nobility of some of the 'lower class' is done with a soft touch, and no set of people is exempt from having terrible people with dark motives. Summary I think this was one of the best written books I've read in a long time, and I strongly recommend it. My only complaint is that Read only has one more book out there at the moment—so GET WRITING!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sounds like a clever book. I'll have to check it out. Interesting characters...does it have a Gothic feel to it? Funny phrase ' money so old it's gone.'

Mystery Writing is Murder

Watery Tart said...

Not gothic at all. More fun house mirror terror (you see it but then arent sure what you saw)--it takes place in the late 80s (possibly why I relate so well--I am a little younger than the main character, but lived in a part of the country a few years behind, so totally recognize trends)--it is a mix of smallish town, everybody in everybody's business, and high society gone-to-seed (so everybody knows everybody's business but the two don't overlap except for the heroine and case) settings.

Probably not going to quite fit the relaxing cozy whodunnit, but worth the jumps and shivers!