Posts Tagged ‘Cass Neary’

Ever since a friend visited Iceland several years ago, I’ve wanted to see it for myself. After reading Elizabeth Hand’s new crime novel, Available Dark, I still want to go — I think. Perhaps the stunning, sinister bleakness she describes is best appreciated from the comforts of a warmer clime.

Hand’s follow-up to 2007’s Generation Loss is itself stunning and sinister, bleak and beautiful, immediately picking up the story of burned-out New York phototographer Cass Neary, who is wanted for questioning by the Maine police in a suspicious death.

But Cass, famous at 19 for her book of punk photos, Dead Girls, and on a downward spiral the last 30 years, jumps at the chance of a paying job in Helsinki. There, murder interrupts her authentication of some grotesque photos in a secret collection, so she’s off to Iceland, searching for answers past and present in Norse folklore, the Swedish black metal scene, and a lover she hasn’t seen in years.

Hand’s writing burns like ice as Cass tries “to throw off the shaky sense that none of this was happening, that it was all a dream ignited by jet lag and booze and a photo taken in 1975.”  No such luck. Cass is a feral cat of a character, drawn to the shadows and the darkest dark, but with a claw-sharp sense of humor. Asked if she’s been in prison, she replies, “Not yet.”

Hand has described Cass as “your prototypical amoral speedfreak crankhead kleptomaniac murderous rage-filled alcoholic bisexual heavily tattooed American female photographer.”  I like what Time magazine’s Lev Grossman said of her: “She’s what Lisbeth Salander would look like in 30 years, if she were tall, blonde and plausible.” Sweet.

Open Book: I’ve been reading and reviewing Elizabeth Hand’s fantasy and science fiction for years, but I didn’t meet her until last week at the Sleuthfest convention in Orlando. She participated in a panel I moderated, “Foreign Tongues,” about international crime fiction, and she assured us the people in Iceland are very friendly and the crime rate quite low. I had her sign my hardcover copy of Available Dark (Minotaur Books). Generation Loss is on my Nook.

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