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Available Dark: A Crime Novel [Kindle Edition]

Elizabeth Hand
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Book Description

"A skin-blistering crime novel, as edgy and black as dried blood on a moonlit night."

--Robert Crais

Elizabeth Hand's writing honors include the Shirley Jackson Award, the James Tiptree Award, the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, the International Horror Guild Award, and many others. Now, this uniquely gifted storyteller brings us a searing and iconoclastic crime novel, in which photographer Cass Neary, introduced in the underground classic Generation Loss, finds herself drawn into the shadowy world of crime in Scandinavia's coldest corners.

As this riveting tour-de-force opens, the police already want to talk to Cass about a mysterious death she was involved with previously, but before they can bring her in, Cass accepts a job offer from overseas and hops on a plane.

In Helsinki, she authenticates a series of disturbing but stunning images taken by a famous fashion photographer who has cut himself off from the violent Nordic music scene where he first made his reputation. Paid off by her shady employer, she buys a one-way ticket to Reykjavik, in search of a lover from her own dark past.

But when the fashion photographer's mutilated corpse is discovered back in Finland, Cass finds herself sucked into a vortex of ancient myth and betrayal, vengeance and serial murder, set against a bone-splintering soundtrack of black metal and the terrifying beauty of the sunless Icelandic wilderness. In this eagerly awaited sequel to the award-winning Generation Loss, Cass Neary finds her own worst fears confirmed: it's always darkest before it turns completely black.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In this brilliant sequel to Hand’s acclaimed literary thriller, Generation Loss (2007), Cassandra Neary, “a burned out, aging punk with a dead gaze,” who subsists largely on alcohol and speed, confronts darkness nearly beyond her comprehension. Wanted by police for questioning about a death in Maine, she welcomes the opportunity to leave the States to evaluate some photos in Helsinki for a collector. A cult figure for her earlier photography book, Dead Girls, Cass is stunned by five photos of fresh corpses posed to represent Finnish folktale figures and taken by a renowned former fashion photographer known for the flashes of light in his work. But when she goes on to Iceland, on the track of the lover of her teens, Quinn O’Boyle, death seems to follow her, as she learns of the murders of those with whom she associated in Finland. Cass, like this book’s readers, sinks deeper and deeper into the darkness of the unforgiving Nordic winter and the surrounding events, with their throbbing undercurrent of metal music and encroaching atmosphere of old Norse religions. A flash of incandescence counters final threats of death, and the all-encompassing darkness is leavened by a glimmer of hope. Stunning. --Michele Leber


Praise for Available Dark


"A hair-raising novel of psychological suspense. This is a series I hope will continue."

--The Globe and Mail


"The millions who devoured Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy will not flinch at Hand’s dark subject matter... Expect this novel to break out onto best seller lists."
--Library Journal


"Cass Neary... makes Lisbeth Salander seem like a model of mental stability... Stunning."
--Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Very, very good…In Hand's thriller, we see what Lisbeth Salander would look like in 30 years, if she were tall, blonde and plausible…Hand is a bonafide literary artist.”
--Lev Grossman, Time

"In the spirit of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo... As the dark Nordic forest thickens, so does the plot. Larsson fanatics may be unable to resist."
--The New York Post

“Pulsing with tension throughout… charged with its own chilling luminosity."
--The Washington Post

"A strong writer. Her studies of artists and musicians are something fierce, and there’s a deadly beauty to her bleak rendering of the Nordic landscape."
--Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times

"Cass Neary could make Lisbeth Salander look like a suburban housewife... A stunning look at a woman forever teetering on the edge."
--Oline H. Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

--Booklist (starred) 

"Award-winner Hand... brings her great skill to a mystery series that’s equally dark and enthralling... Beautiful writing and elegant, intelligent style make this a pleasure."
--RT Book Reviews (4 1/2 stars) 

"A gasoline burn of a book; but it's also a tightly-plotted noir thriller...Unputdownable."
--The Rejectionist

“A brilliant sequel to Hand’s acclaimed literary thriller Generation Loss… Stunning.”

--Booklist (starred review)


“Fiercely frightening yet hauntingly beautiful, with a startling heroine you’ll never forget… Shimmers with gorgeous writing even as it scares the dickens out of you.”

--Tess Gerritsen


“Cass Neary is one of literature’s great noir anti-heroes… Ferocious, aching with compassion and cruelly brilliant, Available Dark is a sinful pleasure.”
--Katherine Dunn


Praise for Generation Loss


“Rightly compared with the sort of crime fiction turned out by the late, great Patricia Highsmith ... Hand expertly ratchets up the suspense until it's at the level of a high-pitched scream."
--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  


"Cass Neary, the battle-scarred shutterbug of Elizabeth Hand's incendiary literary thriller is a marvel."
--Los Angeles Times


"Brilliantly written and completely original, Hand’s novel is an achievement with a capital A.”
--Booklist (starred review)


Praise for Elizabeth Hand’s Other Work

“A superior stylist.”

--The New York Times Book Review on Waking the Moon


“Hypnotic… Moves Hand’s work into the territory of John Fowles and A.S. Byatt.”

--Locus on Mortal Love


“Elizabeth Hand has the written the best book of her generation.”

--Peter Straub on Mortal Love


“As noteworthy in its way as Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale.

--People on Winterlong

Product Details

  • File Size: 487 KB
  • Print Length: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (February 14, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00603TY5S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #593,034 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Available Dark follows Cassandra Neary, a damaged, self-destructive and somewhat washed-up art photographer, who first appeared in Hand's 2007 novel, Generation Loss. A novel with Neary as a protagonist is bound to be a wild ride. She's prone to sudden changes in direction, abruptly taking off for an isolated island off of Maine (in Generation Loss), or to meet a shady Finnish collector of death-obsessed photographs, or chase a long-lost friend/lover who might be in Iceland. Along the way she encounters murder and threat, and often manages to multiply her own troubles by the following her own badly damaged sense of direction. Complicating all this is Cass's painful personal history, which lingers in her present despite the passage of years. Some people deal with adversity by bucking up and getting on with things, while others self-medicate using a cocktail of antisocial behavior, emotional avoidance, and a constant flow of mood-altering substances. Cass fits in the latter, and for this reason her problems aren't so much solved as left to accumulate, trailing in her wake.

Such a compelling central character does much of the work in engaging the reader. On top of this we have unusual settings (Reykjavik and Iceland's outlying areas are especially exotic, well drawn here) and such intriguing milieu as the worlds of photography concerned with death and folklore, the Scandinavian Black Metal scene, and obscure underground cult-like groups dedicated to resurrecting ancient Norse worship. The book is packed with vivid details, bizarre characters, and fascinating and varied artistic and cultural obsessions.

Most of Hand's earlier writing was constrained to Fantasy and related genres, but here she steps away from the impossible.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Hand's novel is by turns fascinating and repellent, drug-fueled, disconnected photojournalist Cassandra Neary bearing the scars of her love affair with East Village nihilism, long past her sell-by date, yet still enamored of subjects no longer animated by a life force, her book of images, Dead Girls, a cult collector's item. Her shabby apartment cluttered with memories and the detritus of self-abuse, Cass's gift and burden is an artist's eye for genius, a nirvana rarely reached since those first heady years, the craving for chemicals unchanged. An old photograph of a former lover that arrives in the mail from Reykjavik, Iceland, and an unexpected assignment to evaluate a series of "murderabilia" images being sold by a famous former fashion photographer in Helsinki, Finland, are the catalysts for Neary's journey across the globe, the first to earn much-needed funds, the second to reunite with her soul's jagged mirror-image, Quinn O'Boyle.

"I don't care who's buying the round as long as he pays." Cassandra's cavalier attitude changes when she inspects the famous photographer's extraordinary series of "Yuleboys" (Jolasveinar), Nordic demons traced to the earliest religious beliefs in the area, the photographs priceless in a flourishing black market specializing in the esoterica of perversion. A growing discomfort shadows Cass's every move after viewing the images; as instinct inspires her impulsive flight to Iceland, headlines of brutal murders explode in Finland, the perfectly-ordered world of a genius shattered in a gruesome tableau of battered flesh.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just like chocolate - the darker the better. March 11, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Let's get one thing straight up front. Liz Hand is not playing around. This is some dark stuff. How dark? Dark net; 14 hours of dark a day; dark, dangerous men; available dark. So dark that Cass Neary, a woman her creator describes as "your prototypical amoral speedfreak crankhead kleptomaniac murderous rage-filled alcoholic bisexual heavily tattooed American female photographer" is the brightest spot in the story. Dark.

People keep comparing this book to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" series, and I am here to just say no. "The Woman with the Jack Daniels and Focalin Addictions" series is far, far superior. Not only is Cass > Lisbeth by a hundred, Hand's prose is > Larsson's (or his translator's) by infinity. Hand is not just a great storyteller, she's an artist, and she brings her world alive in a way that rarely happens in "genre" fiction. The unique combination of setting, characters, and plot will have you checking the internet after you finish the novel to see what's real and what came out of Hand's head. You'll find yourself wondering how she could possibly know about all this crazy stuff, and how she can make up the fake stuff so convincingly. I don't know what to tell you. She's a genius, that's all, and these works are wholly original and without comparison to anything else.

And thus begins my love letter to Cass Neary, the most intriguing and female anti-heroine to grace the pages of a novel since the incorrigible Moll Flanders. Cass Neary is not afraid. Of anything. When Cass watches someone die, she doesn't flip out and book thrice weekly sessions with her therapist to work through the trauma. Cass takes a picture of the body, and a really beautiful picture, at that.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Delicious, only it needs a pinch of plot
I'd have added a fifth and final star to this review had Elizabeth Hand stirred just a bit more plot into this dark, gloomy and yet tasty Nordic stew. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lee Quarnstrom
3.0 out of 5 stars some redeeming qualities
I read the book within two days during a short hiking trip to Central France. The plot has indeed a mesmerizing quality that made me keep reading further and further at ungodly... Read more
Published 9 months ago by xi'an
3.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to love this book
I really wanted to love this book. I'm a photographer who loves Scand-Noir, but after a few initial chapters the book disappointed me. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mobius Strip
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from the bard of bleakness
I've been a fan of Elizabeth Hand for many years, so it's hard to present an unbiased view of any of her novels. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Caleb Blake
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark. A world I have never visited and now won't have to because Ms....
Reading Cass's story felt like I imagine being spaced on drugs and despair would be. Unreal written so realistically. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Toni Marie Sutliff
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the first book and second is just as good
Generation Loss is one of my top ten favorite books. Available Dark lives up to the promise of the first book and now can't wait for release of Cass's continuing adventures in... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Sven Davisson
5.0 out of 5 stars "Scary Neary" is back
'Generation Loss' was good, this was great. Perhaps it was the change of locale (Finland and Iceland) but the book has a Nordic sensibility that belies the author's American roots. Read more
Published 20 months ago by David Lohmeier
3.0 out of 5 stars Nordic demons and ritualized death
This is the sequel to "Generation Loss" and the story follows almost immediately after. Cass has returned to New York and is confronted with numerous messages from the police,... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Michelle Boytim
5.0 out of 5 stars Uniquely dark and gritty, book II
In order to fully enjoy this book, you MUST read GENERATION LOSS first.
Most well-written characters have flaws, and the protagonist of Available Dark (second in what I hope... Read more
Published on May 19, 2013 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Yikes!!
Dark in ways I've never read about or certainly thought about. A lot like an accident. You should look away, but you can't. I couldn't put it down. But be warned....
Published on May 9, 2013 by Husker
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More About the Author

A couple of years after seeing Patti Smith perform, Elizabeth Hand flunked out of college and became involved in the nascent punk scenes in DC and NYC. From 1979 to 1986 she worked at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air & Space Museum; she was eventually readmitted to university to study cultural anthropology, and received her B.A. She is the author of many novels, including Winterlong, Waking the Moon (Tiptree and Mythopoeic Award-Winner), Glimmering, and Mortal Love, and three collections of stories, including the recent Saffron and Brimstone. Her fiction has received the Nebula, World Fantasy, Mythopeoic, Tiptree, and International Horror Guild Awards, and her novels have been chose as New York Times and Washington Post Notable Books. She has also been awarded a Maine Arts Commission Fellowship. A regular contributor to the Washington Post Book World and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Hand lives with her family on the Maine Coast.

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