Friday, May 26, 2006

A Field of Darkness

It's odd, but after reading comments on Cornelia Read's website from some of the authors, I felt as if I read an entirely different book. I liked her main character, Madeline Dare, but I didn't find her as funny as many of the authors. Instead, in this character-driven mystery, I felt she was a lost child, searching for answers, family and home. I felt a great deal of sympathy for her, but I didn't find her or her circumstances funny.

Madeline is a reporter in Syracuse, NY in 1988. She's also a reporter that hates Syracuse. She comes from a monied background, although she herself has none. Her comment? "My money is so old there's none left." She feels out of place in Syracuse, a working man's community, and she has a hard time identifying with the people there. However, with her parents' divorce and odd upbringing, she is also out of place in her extended wealthy family. Her husband, who is working in Canada, is her lifeline and her support. She's dragged back into her family by the story of a nineteen year old murder.

In 1969, two unknown girls who had attended a fair were found murdered in a field, heads crowned with roses. Madeline is jolted into the investigation with the discovery of dog tags in the field; dog tags that belonged to her favorite cousin. Against the wishes of her husband, she pours herself into the investigation, hoping to clear her cousin's name.

I found A Field of Darkness to be a complicated character study of Madeline, a young woman yearning for attachment and a place to call home, and not finding it in Syracuse, a city foreign to her upbringing. The most poignant part of the book? On p. 244, she asks herself, "What was it about them that has such a hold on me? Sophisticated young women, near my age, lost forever in Syracuse, a town that seemed completely uninterested in them, in what their presence here had ultimately cost them. Oh...right. I'm afraid they're me."

If you're looking for a dark read with a complicated, sympathetic character, you can't go wrong with Cornelia Read's A Field of Darkness.

Cornelia Read's website is


M. G. Tarquini said...

I agree with your assessment. There are witty moments, but I wouldn't characterize Madeline Dare as 'funny' or the book as being 'funny'. One of the best things I've read in a while, by the way.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your review. I did not find it funny at all. In fact, I felt there were too many "witty" comments. A young girl with many problems. Her comments, I felt, had to do with her situation and emotional feelings. It was a pretty good read and I think her next book will be even better!

Lesa said...

I thought Madeline's "witty" comments were her defense mechanism, her way of protecting herself. Hopefully, Madeline will grow, as Cornelia grows as a writer.