A FIELD OF DARKNESS
Cornelia Read

 


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Allen & Unwin, this Edition first published February 2007
Reviewed by Sally Roddom

Madeline (Maddie) Dare is a journalist for a local New York State paper, who becomes involved in an unsolved murder that occurred in the area ten years previously. Two girls were found in a cornfield with their throats cut, each wearing a crown made of roses. There was a State Fair being held at the time, and the girls were seen with soldiers during the evening, but no identification of the soldiers had ever been made. Maddie's father-in-law mentions the old crime at a family lunch one day, and the fact that he found a set of dog-tags in the field. When Maddie is shown the tags she is shocked to see they are in the name of her favourite cousin, the wealthy and devastatingly handsome Lapthorne Townsend. She sets out to prove that this all round nice guy, whom she once lusted after, can't possibly be a murderer.

Maddie is an ex-debutant and is originally from Long Island. Descended from WASP "old money", she jokes that her money is so old that there is none left. Her father is now smoking pot in California and her mother lives on pork and beans with her new husband. Maddie is married to a railway worker, Dean. While he is off working on the railway line and trying to invent a machine that will make a lot of linesmen redundant, Maddie works on the local newspaper. Maddie hates living in Syracuse; it is a constant reminder of her drop in lifestyle. She spends half the time hating her 'trailer-trash' neighbours and the rest of the time feeling guilty for thinking that way.

You do not need to be a rocket scientist to enjoy this book. To me it is chick lit disguised as a Whodunit, but is being widely promoted as crime fiction. A FIELD OF DARKNESS is a 2007 Edgar Award nominee for best debut crime novel. Maddie is a smart, loyal and wisecracking character. I'm not sure there is any depth to her, but there is room for growth. Some of the other characters seem to be less flesh and blood people and more caricatures - so much so, that I often felt that the author was using the book to make her social statements. I do not think it is an award winning read; in fact it is average at best. I loved the map at the front of the book as I do not come from the USA, it was nice to see where New York State is compared to New York City. I do like maps and character lists at the front of books - so few authors do it. The biggest annoyance for me in the book was the foul language. It really put me off; I felt that it was in there for shock value rather than being integral to the plot. You may like A FIELD OF DARKNESS, many people do, I am just not one of them.

March 2007 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem

 

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