VALLEY OF ASHES by Cornelia Read


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A funny and sad novel about a woman trying to establish an identity for herself.

Madeleine Dare is a stay-at-home mother of twin daughters and the second-class wife of a man who travels a lot on business. A casual housekeeper at best, she wants to find freelance work as a writer. Her rat of a husband belittles her ambitions, but she lands a gig as restaurant critic for a local newspaper. Soon the editor assigns her to report on a series of arsons. Meanwhile, her relationship with her husband is strained as he treats her with a mixture of love and disrespect. In fact, she has plenty of issues with herself as she grapples with self-loathing. She is loyal to her husband (is it mutual?) but enjoys fantasies involving teenage pool boys, and she uses enough gratuitous f-words and their ilk to fill a whole series of books. Madeleine ("Bunny" to her husband) is a sympathetic character in a witty, wiseass sort of way. That wit goes over the top at times, as when she jokes about sex with a chain saw. But she really wants to be a good wife and mother, while damn well wanting to do something for herself. The book seems at first to be mainly about the arson, but that turns out to be less important than Madeleine’s relationships with her husband and her friends and the surprising turns those friendships take. The way the book ends, it’s easy to imagine at least a sequel or two. The tone is reminiscent of Janet Evanovich's novels, but perhaps with a touch more sadness. Also, Madeleine is more competent at her job than Stephanie Plum.

A fast-paced, well-written book that will appeal to readers not bothered by profanity.

Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-446-51136-0
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2012


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