Valley of Ashes


By Cornelia Read

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Madeline Dare trades New York’s gritty streets for the tree-lined avenues of Boulder, Colorado when her husband Dean lands a promising job. Madeline, now a full-time homemaker and mother to beautiful toddler twin girls, has achieved everything she thought she always wanted, but with her husband constantly on the road, she’s fighting a losing battle against the Betty Friedan riptide of suburban/maternal exhaustion, angst, and sheer loneliness. A new freelance newspaper gig helps her get her mojo back, but Boulder isn’t nearly as tranquil as it seems: there’s a serial arsonist at large in the city. As Madeline closes in on the culprit, the fires turn deadly-and the stakes tragically personal. She’ll need every ounce of strength and courage she has to keep the flames from reaching her own doorstep, threatening all she holds most dear.


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Spring 1995

Boulder, Colorado

[A]fter a child is born the lives of its mother and father diverge, so that where before they were living in a state of some equality, now they exist in a sort of feudal relation to each other. A day spent at home caring for a child could not be more different from a day spent working in an office. Whatever their relative merits, they are days spent on opposite sides of the world.

—Rachel Cusk, A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother


When we first moved to Boulder, I was entirely too happy—a state of being so rare in my experience that I found it rather terrifying.

My twin daughters, Parrish and India, were beautiful, precocious, and brimming with good health. My husband, Dean, was happily successful at his new job and my best, most trusted friend. We lived at the eastern feet of the Rocky Mountains in a cozy old house on the loveliest street of a charming university town.

The air was fresh, the sky was blue—our yard a lush and maple-shaded green, our mellow brick front porch banked in the early spring with a cobalt-and-amethyst embarrassment of lilac, iris, and grape hyacinth.

Everything I'd ever wanted, not least the fleeting belief that Boulder might heal the halves of me, split since childhood between New York and California.


Sorrow is always your own, offering no temptation to fickle gods. Fucking joy, on the other hand? You might as well string your heart from the ceiling for use as a frat-party piñata.

We'd lived in Colorado for three months now, and somehow everything about my marriage had shifted. Not in a good way.

Dean traveled a great deal for work, and when he was home he no longer liked me very much.

I didn't know why, exactly, but it was hard for me to blame him: Most days, I didn't like me a whole hell of a lot, either.

I was exhausted. And lonely. And really shitty at the whole housewife thing. And just so fucking sad, even though I loved my kids and Dean with great fierceness and should've been overjoyed with my fabulous luck, right?

It was just… well, I had this constant creeping terror that I didn't deserve any of the good parts, that I wasn't holding up my end of the bargain. That fear wafted across the bottom of everything, like dry-ice mist rippling along the floor of some cheesy horror-movie set.

And also I should've been eating nothing but salads and taking up jogging or something. Plus washing my hair more often.

But mostly I really, really wanted to be able to sleep for three straight days.

I often found myself thinking of this French kid, Pascal. We'd met one college summer while I was crashing in Eliot House at Harvard with some pals who were actually attending classes there.

Pascal gave himself an odd punky haircut in his dorm room one day with a razor trimmer before wandering around Boston Common for an afternoon, thereby enduring catcalls of derision from every last roving gang of blue-collar youth.

He used to be cool, Pascal said of himself that night in dining hall, but now they call him "Maggot Head."

Lately, those words had echoed in my brain every time I looked in the mirror.

Snotty Parisian accent and all.

The Flatirons jut up at the western end of Colorado's high plains. Boulder's bookend: a crooked row of five-hundred-foot shark's teeth, tipped vertical eighty million years ago by the cataclysmic upthrusts that had whelped the Rockies.

You really couldn't miss them, from any vantage point in town.

I'd only ever lived away from the ocean once before, but this time I was determined not to bitch about it.

I pulled my daughters toward Pearl Street in their little red covered wagon, my throat dry in the thin mile-high air.

We were buffeted, as usual, by random clots of joggers, bikers, and Rollerbladers—obsessive jocks with an o'erweening sense of entitlement being as ubiquitous on the sidewalks of Boulder as those pompous blowhard leveraged-buyout guys and their calcium-deprived blond wives had been in the better restaurants of Manhattan.

I'd let my driver's license lapse while we lived in New York, but hadn't been in any great hurry to set up a DMV appointment out here to regain one. Joggers aside, Boulder had a terrific pedestrian culture, and we were only a couple of blocks' walk from nearly everything one could want downtown. Plus it was sunny 330 days a year here, on average, and I figured having to walk instead of ride most of the time wasn't going to do my ass any aesthetic harm.

Dean and I usually did big grocery runs on the weekend, and me not driving also meant that he had to pitch in on that front.

The only time it sucked was when he was out of town and I needed supplies in a hurry. I was fighting my way toward Pearl Street just then because my husband was at a sales conference in New Orleans and I'd ripped a giant hole in my very last extant vacuum bag while trying to empty it into the kitchen garbage so I could use it over again.

Not that I was addicted to vacuuming or anything, but my mother was due to arrive around lunchtime in the camper she was driving across the country and my house looked like a complete shithole.

Well, okay, my house usually looked like a complete shithole. I just wanted my mother to think I'd made some progress, on that front at least.

Mom Lewis-and-Clarking from sea to shining sea at the wheel of her little beige secondhand Chinook meant that she and my father were both currently members of what Dad had long ago christened "the In-Car Nation." As far as I knew, this was the first thing they'd had in common since their 1967 divorce.

For her it was a lark. Dad, meanwhile, lived in his VW van. He was probably the only homeless guy in America to have voted for Reagan. Twice.

It was two days before Parrish and India's first birthday, hence Mom's imminence, and I also was expecting my bestest pal Ellis to show up with her own two children the following day.

I was kind of hoping the pair of them could help me figure out what the hell had gone wrong with my marriage. Or, better yet, tell me everything was totally fine and I was just being weird and paranoid for no reason at all, and then maybe let me nap a lot.

The Radio Flyer's metal handle bit into my palm. I peeked under its little white hooped-canvas roof to make sure the girls remained happily engrossed in their respective fistfuls of soggy Cheese Nips. They grinned up at me, laughing, rosy little cheeks bedizened with orange crumbs.

I had dressed them that morning in brightly contrasting turtlenecks, cotton jumpers, and striped tights—with blue jean jackets and miniature biker boots.

"Sweetness and light," I said, reaching into the wagon to stroke India's glossy dark hair and Parrish's skimpy blond fuzz, then soldiered on across Spruce at Sixteenth.

The sky was a saturated Easter-egg turquoise and it was seventy degrees out even though the sidewalks were edged with snow.

Up here, the sunlight packed a wallop you never found at sea level. Everything looked sharper, cleaner, because there wasn't as much atmosphere to buffer the rays.

I muscled the wagon up an awkwardly angled curb cut, past a row of newspaper racks. The Daily Camera's headline praised local firefighters for their quick response when someone torched two cars out on Arapahoe.

I kind of hated the Camera, since I'd sent them my clips and résumé when we first moved here and got a curt and badly xeroxed form-rejection postcard in reply—not even the simple courtesy of "You suck so profoundly we wouldn't employ your illiterate lack-talent ass if you were the lone hack to survive a pan-galactic nuclear apocalypse, neener neener," on actual letterhead.

Pompous fuckers.

I reached into the next box and grabbed the Boulder New Times, a free weekly that hadn't yet ruled me out.

Something to live for.

On the off chance I'd ever find employment with these guys, I'd taken to stockpiling issues in a downstairs broom closet.

Ten feet past the bollards demarcating Pearl Street's pedestrianized stretch, a brand-new red Saab convertible's tires squealed slowly against the curb: stoner parking. It still had paper dealer plates on, but there was already a MEAN PEOPLE SUCK sticker affixed to the custom ski rack.

The car's front doors popped open and two dreadlocked, PataGucci-fleeced white boys tumbled onto the sidewalk in a Lilith Fair billow of clove cigarette and patchouli.

The tall kid began torturing passersby with tuneless moans on a nose flute.

His diminutive Trustafarian friend shoved a limp crocheted rainbow skullcap in my face. "Spare change."

A demand, not a question.

"Dividend checks late again?" I asked, dragging my wagon in a wide arc around his expensively sneakered feet.

"We're hungry, man," said the nose flautist.

Parrish squealed with glee and threw two drool-sodden little orange squares onto the sidewalk.

"Cheese Nips," I said, pointing down. "Enjoy."

Yeah, so much for that whole not-being-a-bitch thing.


When the girls had first figured out how to crawl in our Manhattan apartment, Dean built them a giant, beautifully constructed playpen "fence" out of dowels and two-by-fours. Out here we put it up around the dining room table and filled it with toys to keep them occupied so I could occasionally try to get grown-up stuff done, like cleaning the rest of the house before Mom arrived.

It was about eight feet square, a nice space for them to toddle around in, not least since the landlord must have gotten a deal on orange-shag wall-to-wall carpeting so there was a cushy landing whenever they wobbled and fell over.

I changed both their diapers, scrubbed off my hands and forearms, made two quesadillas and chopped up some raw broccoli, strapped the girls into their primary-colored plastic booster seats, filled two sippy cups with milk, and started on the piles of dishes in the sink.

When they were done eating, smearing each other with melted cheese, and shot-putting various bits of lunch around the kitchen, I gently sponged their faces, hosed off their drool-and-cheddar-and-banana-slice-decked bibs, picked chunks of greasy tortilla out of their hair, and set them loose in the playpen so I could start sweeping leftover chunks off the kitchen floor (also a disgusting "antique" shade of orange, to match the shag rug and rancid-rust Formica countertops).

I yearned to win some giant Powerball jackpot just so I could buy the place and rip out every speck of orange in it, then pile it up in the dirt-road alley behind our backyard and set it all on fire.

Because the house itself was beautiful—probably built sometime in the teens. It had high ceilings and tall graceful windows and doorways.

There was a solidity to it, as well. This was a house built by people who wanted to stick around. People who'd headed west, maybe, thinking about California, but got to the foot of the Rockies and said to themselves, "You know, this is really pretty damn great right here. Let's plant a whole lot of graceful shade trees and lay out some generously Euclidean streets and make a life. We'll have wide porches and deep backyards, and we'll plant gardens and talk to our neighbors over the side fence. Take our time with things. Maybe start a university."

I looked through the door to the dining room to check on the girls. They'd both climbed into an empty Pampers carton and were grinning at each other, convulsed with laughter.

The sun was streaming in through the front windows, and as exhausted as I was, I had a sudden gut-shot of pure joy, watching them play together. I grabbed our video camera and recorded a minute of them giggling in the box.

After putting the camera back on its high shelf, I started hosing down the girls' booster-chair trays in the kitchen sink, the drain of which then backed up and spilled over onto the floor when the washing machine's rinse cycle emptied.

By the time I'd mopped that up and joined my children in the dining room, lugging the country-blue vacuum cleaner my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas some years earlier, Parrish had taken another massive dump in her diapers, removed them, crawled smack-dab through the middle of the steaming pile of crap, and left a serpentine fecal Hansel-and-Gretel trail crisscrossing the carpet under and around the table.

I dropped the vacuum and ran to grab the kitchen garbage can, a clean diaper, a box of butt-wipes, a roll of paper towels, and the dish soap, then climbed into the playpen.

By this point, Parrish had liberated a fistful of bowel product from the back of her diaper and mashed it against the table's edge.

"Dude," I said, snaking an arm around her chubby little waist to pull her away from the burgeoning shit-mural, "contrary to popular opinion, your butt does not make Play-Doh."

Parrish laughed up at me and tried to grab my hair with her merde-encrusted fists. I captured her wrists in one hand and started the haz-mat remediation with a thick wad of wipes.

Ten minutes later, I had her swabbed down, re-diapered, re-dressed, and sweetly reeking of Eau de Johnson's-Baby-Whatever, plus all the crap scraped up, the carpet and table sudsed and lathered and rinsed.

I plopped her back down in the playpen, kissed the top of her downy blond head, said, "Good thing you're cute, sweetness," and grabbed the vacuum cleaner.

I plugged the damn thing in and got down on my hands and knees to begin assaulting the rest of the ugly rug fronds.

This posture was necessary because our vacuum had about as much sucking power as a pair of asthmatic elves armed with defective crazy straws, so the only way to make it actually pick up dirt and detritus was to remove all accoutrements from the hose-end before scraping it rapidly back and forth across the orange fronds of shag.

The mind-numbing number of hours I'd devoted to this activity had worn down the hose's plastic tip to a slanty point, like a giant black lipstick.

My mother-in-law vacuumed her entire house every day. And did all the accounting for the family farm. And was generally cheerful, but witty. Which is kind of tough to measure up to.

Especially since I was now lying stomach-down on the floor with both arms shoved on a blind mission into the murky depths beneath our sofa—having already raked out six desiccated baby carrots, two Popsicle sticks, half a sesame bagel, and our missing copy of Velveteen Rabbit (the pages of which appeared to be cemented shut with a thick mortar of hummus). I was just wondering how long it had actually been since I'd last vacuumed, considering the thick ruff of velveteenish furry stuff growing along the edges of the petrified hummus, when the doorbell rang.

I caught sight of myself in the front-hall mirror as I stood up to answer it. My skin was gray, my dark blond hair was stringy, and there was a spit-lacquered floret of broccoli affixed to the center of my right eyebrow. Also, I was fatter than I'd ever been in my life by about twenty pounds—and I hadn't exactly started out as a rail.


I had a second of wistfulness for my misspent youth, the years when all I worried about was scraping up a few bucks to go bar-hopping with my pal Ellis, and there were always drunk old guys mumbling about how I looked like Ingrid Bergman.

"Get a load of you now," I said to the mirror. "You'd be lucky if they said Ingmar."

She used to be cool, but now…

The living room behind me still resembled Bourbon Street at dawn on Ash Wednesday—minus the confetti and vomit, at least.

I took a halfhearted swipe at my verdantly cruciferous eyebrow and reached for the doorknob.

My beautiful dark-haired mother danced in off the porch and threw her arms around me. "Oh, Madeline, it's so good to see you!"

I hugged back with gusto, burbling my gratitude that she was visiting against the side of her neck.

Mom pulled back half a step from our embrace. "Hold still a sec."

She plucked something from my hair with her fingertips, then threw whatever it was back over her left shoulder toward the lawn.

"That was a lump of shit, I think," she said. "Did you just change the girls' diapers?"

Whereupon I nodded and burst into tears.


Do you miss Dean when he's away, or do you like having your own space?" asked Mom.

We were on our way to the pediatrician's office with her at the wheel of Dean's beat-up Mitsubishi Galant.

"It's hard sometimes," I said. "But then it always feels like we have new stuff to talk about when he gets home. We're happy to see each other, you know?"

She nodded. "I think the hardest thing for me when you kids were little was never feeling like I could finish anything… everything was always interrupted. And then your father would come home from the stock exchange and I was so hungry for what was going on in the world, and I wanted to be told I was doing things right after singing 'Itsy Bitsy Spider' all day. Just, 'Goodness, you've painted the dining room table—how wonderful!' But he wouldn't say anything at all, he'd just read the paper and have a cocktail and grumble through dinner."

"You guys were so young," I said. "I mean, babies. No wonder your entire generation got divorced. I can't imagine what it would have been like to marry the first guy I slept with, just presuming it would all work out."

"It never occurred to me that it wouldn't. Mummie and Daddy always seemed fine. I thought all you had to do was get married and then that was it."

"And cloth diapers," I said. "I remember you rinsing them out in the toilet, when Trace was a baby."

"Well, on Long Island we had a diaper man, at least. He took the dirty dipes away and delivered a pile of clean ones every week."

"I don't care," I said. "No Pampers, no Prozac? No fucking way."

She nodded. "And no birth control. You and Pagan were both products of the rhythm method."

"Jesus, Mom. I'd've had myself committed, just to catch up on sleep."

She laughed and turned left, into the doctor's office parking lot. As she looked for a spot, I thought about the end of her marriage to my father.

In 1967, Mom discovered that she was pregnant a third time, and wept, and told Dad she didn't know how they could handle having another child. There wasn't enough money, and they were both so exhausted already.

He asked around on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where he was an ill-paid fledgling broker at the time. Someone knew someone who knew where a woman could get an abortion—from a doctor in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for four hundred dollars cash.

So Mom drove herself to Kennedy airport in the dark one morning, racked with such bad morning sickness it took her the entire drive and four-hour flight to finish one jelly doughnut. She ate it in little tiny pieces, trying to keep something in her stomach, some sugar in her system, so she wouldn't throw up.

When she arrived at the doctor's office, the nurse told her the price had gone up to five hundred.

Mom put her four bills on the doctor's desk. "This is all I have. Please help me."

She drove herself from the airport back to our tiny rented house in Jericho, New York, arriving home around midnight—bleeding profusely, doubled over with cramps.

She got into bed carefully, not wanting to wake up my father.

He turned toward her in the darkness as she drew the covers up to her chin.

"I've changed my mind," he said. "If you don't want to have my child, I don't want to stay married to you. I've packed my bags and I'll be leaving in the morning."

I was four years old, my sister two and a half.

In my pediatrician's parking lot, a gigantic Range Rover finally pulled out of a space.

"No, Mom, really," I said. "I couldn't have handled the shit you dealt with when we were little. You're fucking amazing."

We sat in the waiting room for twenty-five minutes, then the examining room for another ten before the doctor came in. Mom took the chair and settled Parrish in her lap. I sat up on the crinkly-papered exam table with India.

"Do the girls need shots this time?" she asked.

"Probably. It seems like they have to get a few more every time we come in. Hep B, DTaP, meningitis… endless."

Mom shivered. "Poor little things."

The doctor bustled in, clipboard in hand. "Mrs. Bauer?"

Dare, I thought to myself, having kept my maiden name. But it seemed needlessly strident to correct her so I just nodded.

"We're behind on the girls' vaccination schedule," she said. "I'd like to get them caught up today."

Mom raised an eyebrow at me, having always been a proponent of the "I don't think that really needs stitches" school of parenting.

"Okay, I guess." I mean, I didn't want to leave my children vulnerable to typhoid, or whatever, right?

Parrish wailed in my lap as she got an injection in each arm. I closed my eyes and stroked her hair, whispering shhhh in her ear. "It's okay, sweetie… It's okay. All done now."

India screamed next, struggling in Mom's lap.

I was just so damn tired. The pitiful sound of both children's sobs made tears well up in my eyes.

"Now, we find these shots are usually tolerated really well," said the doctor, "but if the girls have any discomfort tonight, it's all right to give them a little liquid Tylenol."

"Okay," I said. "Thank you."

The woman grabbed her clipboard and race-walked out of the room.

"What a bitch," said Mom in a stage whisper the moment the exam room door had clicked shut.

I snickered despite myself and turned to look at her.

"Oh, Mom… you cried, too?" I said, handing her a wad of Kleenex from the doctor's stash. "Your mascara's running."

"I couldn't stand it," she said, sniffling and dabbing at her eyes. "Getting a shot in each arm? Horrible."

We carried the girls back out to the parking lot. India was asleep before Mom had finished fastening the straps on her car seat.

"Why don't you go up and take a nap when we get home, Madeline?" said Mom. "You look exhausted."

"That would be my idea of Nirvana," I said, right before Parrish projectile-vomited all over me.

I was looking for clean clothes for Parrish once we'd gotten back to the house.

"I'll do all that," said Mom. "Don't be silly."

"But you shouldn't have to—"

She took me gently by the shoulders and turned me toward the staircase.

"Go upstairs," said my mother. "Wash your face. Put on a clean shirt."

I just stood there for a minute, then glanced back over my shoulder.

Mom had already somehow stripped Parrish down to just a diaper and laid her gently on the sofa. "I think she's finished throwing up, poor little thing."

Even so, the cushions beneath her were now miraculously, tautly sheeted with several clean towels.

I shook my head. "How did you get—"

"Go upstairs," said Mom, shaking a crook'd finger at me. "I'm the mother, and I say so."

When I reached the landing, I heard her call my name from below.

"Yeah?" I said, peering back down over the banister.

"Turn your dirty clothes inside out and throw them down here once you've got them off. I'll start a load of laundry."

"Thank you."

"And then I think you should run yourself a bath."


She stepped into sight beneath me. "After that you can go to sleep."

I bowed to her in gratitude, knocking my forehead three times against the banister.

I'd just gotten out of the bathtub and wrapped myself in a big towel when Mom came upstairs.

"Is Parrish okay?" I asked, reaching back into the tepid water to yank out the plug by its chain.

"I gave her some apple juice and she kept it down. She might go to sleep for a while."

"Do you think I should take her temperature?"

"I think you should take a nap."

I padded down the hallway toward Dean's and my bedroom, my skin not even damp anymore.

"It's so weird," I said. "You barely even need towels at this altitude. It's like going through the dryers at a car wash."

I put on a bra and pulled a clean T-shirt over my head.

"The clasp broke on these pearls you got from Mummie?" asked Mom, lifting the string of cultured orbs from the jewelry box atop my bureau, my third of what had been her mother's triple-strand necklace.

"The clasp is fine," I said, rubbing my wet hair roughly with a towel. "The thread snapped, right near the end where it attaches."

She nodded. "I'll take the girls out for a walk later and let you nap. We'll have a little adventure and find a jewelry store to fix these."

"You sure Parrish is okay?"

"Just go to sleep for a while."

I felt so refreshed after the bath I didn't think I'd drift off, but I blinked my eyes a couple of times and the next time I opened them the bedroom walls were tinted blood orange, reflecting the sunset.

Downstairs, Mom had made dinner for all four of us.

Parrish woke up around three that night, weeping and screaming. She was hot and sweaty and crying as though she were in great pain—or being chased by rabid wolves.

I gave her liquid Tylenol and carried her downstairs and held her as I walked slowly back and forth across the moonlit living room floor. I buried my nose in her sweet, alfalfa-smelling hair as she shrieked in my ear, humming softly until she exhausted herself back to sleep once more.

Sitting with her cradled across my lap for another ten minutes, I gazed at her dear little face in the blue moonlight.

She made a fist and raised her thumb to her mouth, dark lashes grazing her cheeks—so beautiful it made me ache.

Lucky, lucky, lucky. Yes I am.


Most days I woke up brimming with a sudden terror—that I'd forgotten to do essential things, that I'd never make friends in Colorado, that my appearance as an adult in the world was only a thin candy shell hiding a tiny, rattling center of incompetent thirteen-year-old or, worse yet, nothing at all.

That morning I was too tired to care. I came downstairs in my underwear and my favorite black EAT THE RICH skull-and-crossbones T-shirt, toting a just-awakened child on each hip.

Mom was in the kitchen drinking Postum, having already put away last night's dishes and started a second load of laundry for me.

"Does it bother you if I clean when I'm here?" she asked.


  • "The sharpest humor comes with a pinch of suffering, and Madeline Dare suffers big time in Cornelia Read's new mystery about this fugitive socialite from Oyster Bay, Long Island. . . Madeline is funny when she's depressed ('I'm fat, my marriage is tanking, and I want to run away with the circus'), but the only person who appreciates her bleak humor is a friend with domestic issues of her own ('I just want to be a widow. Is that so wrong?')."—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times
  • "What makes Read's crime novels unique and difficult to pigeonhole, despite the genre's plethora of subcategories, is the fact that the action doesn't stop-and she doesn't stop writing-when the murder is solved and the criminals are apprehended. Nor is everything tied up in tidy packages after the climax, with one labeled "arson inquiry" and another called "marriage." That's not how real life works. Nor is it how satisfying fiction is supposed to work. It's definitely not how life has ever worked Dare, whose whole world takes such a kick in the head in Valley that it's hard to fathom how she'll get up again. But, as readers of the series know from experience, she most certainly will. Eloquently telling off anyone who gets in her way."—Jordan Foster,
  • "[T]he main character, Madeline Dare, is so fantastic it made the novel great. . . Madeline is one tough chick. Her attitude and demeanor. . . pulled me in and kept me turning the pages. . . this is a must-have for your shelves so fans of those books can get another dose of this awesome female character . . . anyone who appreciates a strong female lead should find this a satisfying read and be hunting your shelves for the previous novels."—BrodartVibe blog
  • On Invisible Boy:

    "Read's darkest, most passionate and most poignant book yet."—Tana French, New York Times-bestselling author of Broken Harbor
  • "Read expertly evokes the New York City of the period, from the nearly palpable grime of Chelsea to disturbing undertones of racism and classism in the justice system. Equal parts toughness and vulnerability, Madeline is always a bracing heroine."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • "With remarkable originality, she scores again in a novel that transcends genre and leaves the reader spellbound."—-Richmond Times-Dispatch
  • "I have been on the Cornelia Read bandwagon since her remarkable debut, but even my already ardent admiration didn't prepare me for the heights she could achieve as a writer. Valley of Ashes, like all the Madeline Dare books, is smart and surprising, acknowledging the cumulative power of Madeline's troubled past while daring to suggest an even more challenging future. Riveting and devastating."—Laura Lippman
  • "If you haven't read Cornelia's work, you really should, and you should start with Field of Darkness. Her writing is powerful, funny, literate, intelligent, and liberally sprinkled with foul language, much in the way Cornelia herself speaks. While her books are always filled with action and mystery, the stories revolve around family, and I would think they'd resonate with anyone who's had any sort of off-beat family member, a challenging relationship, or had moments of profound happiness. Which is to say, all of us. Seriously, read these books!"—Fran Fuller, Seattle Mystery Bookshop
  • On The Crazy School:
    "How nice it is to hear that rebel voice again."—New York Times Book Review
  • "Madeline's deadpan voice, acid wit and psychological depth are the perfect counterpoint to the novel's positively Gothic plot...She's a great character, and her creator is a great storyteller. Caustic, gripping and distinctive--intelligent entertainment."—Kirkus Reviews
  • On A Field of Darkness:

    "Sparks seem to fly off the pages of Cornelia Read's A FIELD OF DARKNESS...powered by a sensational narrator's voice...Read is a big talent."—The Boston Globe
  • "Read's novel is fast-paced; once the action starts, don't even think about putting it down."—Library Journal (starred review)

On Sale
Aug 14, 2012
Page Count
368 pages

Cornelia Read

About the Author

Cornelia Read grew up in New York, California, and Hawaii. She is a reformed debutante who currently lives in New York City. To learn more about the author, you can visit her website at

Learn more about this author