Spoiler alert - if you haven't read the first Aud Torvigen book - The Blue Place, my review is here - don't read this review. I ruin the ending of The Blue Place for you.
Stay by Nicola Griffith
Paperback: 9781400032303, $12.95, Vintage Books (Knopf, Random House)
Stay was not quite the same masterpiece as the first book in this series - in my exulted opinion. While Aud is still an intriguing character, I was not turning the pages as fast as I did in the first Aud Torvigen novel (and not just because of my work load). Her all-consuming grief over Julia's death is understandable and well-written, but does not make for a captivating read. If you're looking for the sexy, kick-ass Aud of The Blue Place, you won't find her here. Clearly Aud is multidimensional, but having that confident, attractive, self-knowing character was one of the major appeals for me; Julia's death has ripped Aud apart and she doesn't know how to put herself back together. She attempts to do so throughout the novel, with varying degrees of success.
A secondary character in the first novel- Dornan, one of Aud's good friends - comes to her for help. His often-wayward fiance has gone missing and he wants Aud to find her. Aud reluctantly takes the case, but when she finds Tammy, it's really just the beginning. Tammy was essentially kidnapped by a sociopath who not only kidnaps people, degrades them to the extent that they have no self-confidence left, and video tapes their sexual escapades as part of blackmailing them, he also has a 9-year-old girl being raised to be his perfect future wife (think brainwashing, illegal Mexican immigrant, Bible-belt foster parents, the whole nine yards).
The plot has almost a Bourne-series feel to it (the book series about Jason Bourne, made into a blockbuster movie trilogy staring Matt Damon), and the convoluted plot almost begs for some fast-paced action, which we sadly do not get at quite the pace it asks for. The story itself takes place over the course of a few weeks, but Aud's inner monologue makes it feel as if the plot is going on for much longer.
What Griffith does well in Stay is enhancing Aud's newly-formed deliberations over how situations are not always black and white, right and wrong. Griffith also gives us more enticing details of Aud's wood fascination - Aud rebuilding a cabin in the woods is almost as much of a sexual exercise as it is therapy. (Or maybe that's just me - I find brains and capability sexy in a woman, and Aud's knowledge of wood types, hand tools, and how to build a cabin in the woods really does it for me. Especially since she adds things like plumbing and a claw-foot tub.)
While I was pleased with the way the plot-line was resolved, I'm definitely looking forward to reading the third (and so far, last one published) book in this series. I'm hoping the sexy, kick-ass Aud Torvigen I fell in love with in the first book will be back in full style. As soon as I've finished Always, I'll let you know. For an excerpt of Always, click here. For an excerpt from Stay, click here.