by Elizabeth Crook
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Pub Date 07 Nov 2023 | Archive Date 21 Nov 2023
“The tale that Elizabeth Crook conjures out of the most basic materials—a man goes on a trip, things happen, and the trip becomes a quest—should take its place alongside the very best novels of the American West, a top rank that includes Lonesome Dove, Little Big Man, News of the World, and Blood Meridian. Yes, it’s that good; I didn't want it to end.” – Ben Fountain
The Madstone is a 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.