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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.
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.
“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