“Valley of Ashes” by Cornelia Read / Monday, December 3, 2012 / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

Today’s featured book is Valley of Ashes by Cornelia Read.

"Valley of Ashes" by Cornelia Read

Nosey joking gets you burned.

Why Clay Stafford chose this book:

For those who have followed the writer/sleuth character Madeline Dare, she’s moved again. From Syracuse, NY (“A Field of Darkness”) to the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts (“The Crazy School”) to New York City (“The Invisible Boy”) and now Boulder, Colorado (“Valley of Ashes”), Madeline changes locale, but she can’t stop her inquisitive spirit nor her smart-mouthed sense of humor. This time, it aims to burn her.

“Valley of Ashes” is the story of Madeline’s attempt to capture a serial arsonist. Madeline – bored out of her gourd after having moved to Boulder from New York City to follow her husband’s job – can’t help but move in on the suspect. As one would expect, when Madeline gets close, the culprit kicks back.

I’ve enjoyed all of Cornelia Read’s books. They’re suspenseful, smart, sassy, and funny, but they have a point, usually deep. There is a character breadth to them that holds you, as well as chock-full laugh-out-loud one-liners. Since the first book, which Oprah Winfrey called one of the “Nine Mysteries Every Thinking Women Should Read,” author Read has been consistent in all her books. What I like about the series is the movement of the character. She’s a fish out of water in every tale. Her movements introduce new characters, bring out her own character when pushed, and causes her to rely on her own skills and brains to solve the crimes that get her piqued. With lines like “I’m fat, my marriage is tanking, and I want to run away with the circus,” you can’t help but like her. And understand. Male or female. And, as a parent, I get it: “Contrary to popular opinion, your butt does not make Play-Doh.” Kids, don’t play with it or smear it on the table. Or when she’s vacuuming to please her overbearing husband and she’s under the sofa “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.” And, in the midst of all this, she attempts to save the day.

“Valley of Ashes” is a book you’ll love (if you like off-beat quirky characters). There is much about these books and characters that any family member will recognize. If you are not Madeline Dare, someone close to you is, which would make this a great book to read over the holidays during family visits. I think that may be why these books tend to resonate so popularly.

From the publisher:

“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.”

If you want to make your own comments on this selection, we would love to hear from you. Join our Facebook Killer Nashville group page or our blog and join in the discussion.

Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!

– Clay Stafford, Founder of Killer Nashville