About the Book
Isobel Reinhardt is a hot mess. The daughter of a wire-walker turned federal fugitive and a high-end sex worker who likes to call herself a feminist, Isobel has failed decisively at everything she’s put her hand to. So she comes to Mendocino County to grow pot for a woman who knows all her family secrets.
When she narrowly escapes arrest while delivering pot for Alizarin, Isobel does a quick risk assessment and decides it’s time to get a legitimate job. Without a marketable skill set or a well-developed resume, she jumps at the opportunity to be one of two live-in caregivers for a dying German woman.
As death and madness converge in a lonely country house at the end of a long dirt road, Isobel realizes the role of ferocity and beauty in her life.
For Readers and Book Clubs:
“A Schedule of Drugs in the Valley of Death is one of those books you can read fast, but will wish you hadn’t when you finish it too soon.” — Jonathan Middlebrook, Review, The Ukiah Daily Journal
Portraits of Ancestors
MY NAME IS Isobel Reinhardt, and I am living more dangerously than I ever have before. I am a portrait painter, which may not seem especially daring, since it means I spend my days listening to podcasts, dipping my brushes in water-based oils, and cleaning them in non-toxic odorless mineral spirits. I no longer listen for the footsteps of angry men with guns. I can trust my colleagues not to place me in harm’s way—unless you count the occasional comment from those who have accorded themselves the privilege of judging other people’s work. But painting human faces is riskier than anything, because it takes a jeweler’s precision and a constant awareness of the savagery of human beings.
Since we as a species have always had the regrettable tendency to bash each other’s brains in, we have also developed a hair-trigger response to the slightest sign of a possible threat in other people’s faces—especially those that are just the tiniest bit different from our own. For this reason, people have powerful reactions to portraits, even if they are fully aware that an oil painting is not about to raise a rock and cave in their skulls. But I know for a fact that if I paint a nostril half a millimeter too small or too wide, I am guaranteed to set off a family feud that lasts for generations. I could give a lip a certain curl and provide a man’s descendants with an ancestor who sneers.
It’s generally best to avoid smiles.
Smiles, like butterflies and sharks, do not do well in captivity, which is the whole point of painting. Painters exist to capture a moment, an expression, a condition of the light. We are here, with our solvents and our pigments, to capture the look on your face and pin it to the wall. To make it stop moving, so we can look at it forever. And if there is one thing no one wants to look at forever, it is a fleeting moment of joy. Eternal joy is a dreadful thing to catch sight of in the corner of your eye as you are walking down a hallway lined with portraits of your ancestors.
People want a painting that hints at crimes and madness, but preserves the nobility of line they know their forebears possessed. Therefore, if a customer’s grandmother ran for her life in the middle of the night, you can paint her toiling along a lonely road, but not scrambling over a wall with her panties showing and dirt in her teeth. If a client’s mother was notorious, paint her as an Italian courtesan, of the honest, poetic variety. And if her father was a wire-walker and a convict and a connoisseur of obscure enjoyments, well. It’s as good a place to start as any.