Let me be clear as crystal: Nicola Griffith is one of my favorite authors. I’d been keeping this behind “break in case of emergency” glass because I like to have something of hers unread in case I need her desperately, but I gave up & broke it to fix a craving. So I’m going to crow & rave about this, just take that as a given. This is the third of her detective stories featuring Aud (rhymes-with-“crowd”) Torvingen, the six foot two former sociopath. Aud is, to some degree, Nicola’s self-referential character: Griffith is also a giant former martial arts instructor. Former, because in nineteen ninety-three Nicola Griffith was diagnosed with MS. MS is particularly germane to this work, rearing its plaquey head in the last third; the first time I’ve seen her break the subject into her fiction. The first of these books, The Blue Place is frankly breathtaking. Aud carves out a niche as a character, & when people make fun of her for being a Disney villainess—well, you can imagine there wasn’t anyway I couldn’t adore her. Stay, the second book, made some mis-steps. The “ghost” business. Now, I’m glad, frankly, that Ms. Griffith is experimenting with her writing but in Stay, I don’t think it worked. Always has some lit tricks, mostly in the form of two narratives being interwoven as alternating chapters, but it most definitely works.
I think I was sold completely with the first line of the Atlanta story: “Self defense is not just a skill, it’s a worldview. Like the scientific method—or religion, or motherhood…” Hot damn, write away! Also, this book is much less “lets tell a mystery story,” & much more “lets put this hard-bitten killer of killers into her life & see how she behaves.” Aud, the recovering sociopath—I mentioned that right? I think I mentioned that—has a few communication issues, a big hole as far as empathy goes, & is pretty much fatally deadly with her hands or her charisma. The stories interweave only psychologically, but do echo across one another in the interior monologue of Aud. I will say as the heteronorm reading the story that I was bummed that Dornan just keeps losing his girlfriends. Poor berk. Really, I wonder just how much of this story is the loveletter to Nicola Griffith’s wife, Kelly Eskridge who io9 just reviewed today by coincidence. Is this the mix-n-match puzzle? Aud plus Kick equals Nicola plus Kelly? I’m just idly speculating—frankly, I’ll be speculating, since I’ve now run out of things of hers to read!