Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand

Available Dark is my fourth Elizabeth Hand and a sequel to Generation Loss. They both feature Cass Neary, a burned out former punk and transgressive art photographer. Without getting into spoilers Generation Loss, people are angry that Neary published a picture that she took in that novel. The aftermath of Generation Loss’s events left her in even more dire financial straits than she was at the beginning of the first novel. So when a collector of dark photographs contacts her to get her to authenticate pictures by another famous photographer in Helsinki, she goes. An old flame of sorts also saw the pictures and reaches out. He lives in Iceland. She goes to see him after authenticating the photos. Then people start dying.

The world these characters inhabit rides the line between transgressive art (of both photography and musical varieties) and truly reprehensible stuff. The photos Neary authenticates could be crime scene photos, or could be the still versions of snuff. I didn’t think it was possible, but this may have out-bleaked and out-darked the previous book. I was somewhat braced for it after the other, which may have lessened the impact. I prefer the first book, but both my impression of their relative bleakness and which I prefer might change upon rereading. I don’t read enough Nordic Noir to know how much overlap this has with that genre. I’ve only read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; this is a much better book that that one.

Elizabeth Hand is the author discovery of the year for me. Generation Loss is probably my favorite of the four I’ve read so far. But all are excellent. (The other two are Wylding Hall and Waking the Moon.)

Highly Recommended.

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