The Madstone

A Novel


By Elizabeth Crook

Read by Will Collyer

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 7, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

With echoes of Lonesome Dove and News of the World, the riveting story of a pregnant young mother, her child, and the frontier tradesman who helps them flee across Texas from outlaws bent on revenge, even as an unlikely love blossoms.

Texas, 1868. As nineteen-year-old Benjamin Shreve tends to business in his workshop, he witnesses a stagecoach strand a passenger. When the man persuades Benjamin to help track down the vanished coach—and a mysterious fortune left aboard—he is drawn into a drama whose scope he could never have imagined.
The missing coach has a surprise in store: its other passengers include Nell, a pregnant young woman, and her four-year-old son, Tot, who are on the run from Nell’s brutal husband and his murderous brothers. After learning of their plight, Benjamin offers Nell and Tot passage to the distant Gulf of Mexico, where they can escape to safety. This chivalrous act will prove more dangerous than he could have expected, as buried secrets—including a cursed necklace—reveal themselves.
Even as Benjamin falls in love with Nell and imagines life as Tot’s father, vengeful pursuers are on their trail. With its vivid characters and expansive canvas, The Madstone calls to mind Larry McMurtry’s American epics. The novel is full of eccentric action, unrelenting peril, and droll humor—a thrilling and beautifully rendered story of three people sharing a hazardous and defining journey that will forever bind them together.


  • "Crook has written the perfect adventure to curl up with on some desolate winter night . . . There is something satisfying about being in the presence of such a conscientious protagonist . . . Crook is a master at rustling up competing forces to create cinematic calamities . . . This story gallops madly along from one imperiled moment to another . . . Terrifically entertaining."
    Washington Post
  • “A wonderfully transporting tale of the Old West.”
    People Magazine
  • “As thrilling as its predecessor . . . a compelling read on its own terms.”
    Texas Monthly
  • "The Madstone is tender, violent, funny, and, like just about everything Crook writes, drenched in Texas history."
    Houston Chronicle
  • "An epic journey across the Lone Star State."
    Dallas Morning News
  • "A beautifully crafted story . . . Benjamin’s smart, heartfelt and witty narration makes the story as well as the manner in which Crook brings 1860s Texas vividly to life. Her writing and sense of place are stunning . . . Have tissues handy when you read it.”
    Buzz Magazine
  • “Crook has a gift for engaging details . . . The guiding spirit here is Dickens . . . An entertaining, well-paced yarn.”
    Kirkus Reviews (starred)
  • "This epistolary novel will appeal to western and historical fiction readers alike (particularly Lone Star aficionados)."
  • “Elizabeth Crook is already a household name in Texas, but The Madstone should establish her as a national figure, evoking the works of Charles Portis and Larry McMurtry as we go on a harrowing (and sometimes humorous) ride through 1868 Texas.”
  • "A fresh take on the Western novel which should be much admired."
    Historical Novel Society
  • "An ­eloquent and funny adventure novel . . . The Madstone perfectly balances a wry sense of humor with a melancholy contemplation of loneliness and love . . . Crook’s book is a worthy entry into the canon of modern Western novels."
    WORLD magazine
  • The Madstone is a wonderful book. The tale that Elizabeth Crook conjures out of the most basic materials—a man goes on a trip, things happen, and the trip becomes a quest—should take its place alongside the very best novels of the American West, a top rank that includes Lonesome Dove, Little Big Man, News of the World, and Blood Meridian. Yes, it’s that good; I didn't want it to end. Benjamin Shreve and his compatriots affected me as few characters have in recent years, and I think of them still.”
    Ben Fountain, National Book Critics Circle Award winner, National Book Award finalist, and New York Times bestselling author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
  • The Madstone is a treasure: a brilliant, beautiful page-turner of a book. Elizabeth Crook has reimagined the Western, giving us a poignant love story and a riveting road novel. I devoured it—and you will, too.”
    Chris Bohjalian, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Double Bind and The Flight Attendant
  • “Elizabeth Crook is a magician of a novelist, bringing the past to life with a tale of epic proportions that must be read to be believed. The voice of Benjamin Shreve stands alone in recent fiction, and all of Crook’s characters linger long after you’ve finished reading. The Madstone is a marvel.”
    Nathan Harris, New York Times bestselling author of The Sweetness of Water
  • “It would be unfair to call Elizabeth Crook the true heir to Paulette Jiles, Charles Portis, and Larry McMurtry, because Crook’s style is emphatically her own, but I want to anyway because she’s just so damn good. The Madstone, one long riveting epistle that reads like music, has a fully formed voice in its young narrator, pitch-perfect dialogue, and wit as dry as a mesquite tree. I would read, and will continue to read, anything Crook writes.”
    Nathaniel Ian Miller, author of #1 Indie Next selection The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven
  • Praise for The Which Way Tree:
  • "A multilayered tale . . . Benjamin Shreve, the teenage narrator of The Which Way Tree, unspools his tale of Civil War-era Texas in a voice that is utterly convincing, consistent, and believable. Crook never slips out of that voice for a moment. This is no small feat given that the tale involves Benjamin's demented half sister, the infamous massacre of Union-sympathizing German immigrants by local Confederates, and a giant panther. Any first-person voice involving a young Southern boy invites comparisons to Huck Finn. But dialects have complexities and Crook appears to be a master of them. Benjamin's voice swings between the rhythms of the Southern hills and the lofty, elevated tone encountered in Twain and contemporary Westerns . . . His speech can switch from hyperbole to understatement in the same sentence--and it is a wonderfully deadpan understatement . . . The language is arresting . . . The Which Way Tree is a commendable and very readable addition to the tale-spinning tradition and its beautiful use of language."
    Paulette Jiles, New York Times Book Review

On Sale
Nov 7, 2023
Hachette Audio

Elizabeth Crook

About the Author

Elizabeth Crook has published five previous novels, including The Which Way Tree, The Night Journal, which received the Spur Award from Western Writers of America, and Monday, Monday, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2014 and winner of the Jesse H. Jones Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her family.

Learn more about this author