Hard Light
Elizabeth Hand
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Buy *Hard Light: A Cass Neary Crime Novel* by Elizabeth Handonline

Hard Light: A Cass Neary Crime Novel
Elizabeth Hand
592 pages
April 2016
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Once caught up in the world of Elizabeth Handís protagonist, Cass Neary (Available Dark), her search for elusive lover Quinn OíBoyle becomes a conscious choice. Neary is no ordinary protagonist, her history and proclivities lurking near the dark side of human nature than the light. So it was in Available Dark, when Cass got caught up in the seedier side of Reykjavik, Iceland, catching up with Quinn only to be forced to return to London under a stolen passport, as needful of anonymity as Quinn, a wanted man in England.

Born in New York City, Cass Neary is a child of the punk movement, the nihilism of dark, drug-fueled nights. Her appreciation for the underbelly of city life and artistic temperament runs afoul of a downward-spiraling scene but fuels her photographs, a constant source of creativity in finding her unique voice: ďIím the ghost of punk, haunting the twenty-first century in disintegrating black and white.Ē London became her playground, the source of inspiration and self-destructiveness that leads her from one place to another in search of her soul mate, Quinn, from London to Reykjavik and back. She cuts her teeth on the sharp edges of the streets, Quinn inhabiting the narrow chambers of her heart. Like a welcome breath of oxygen after a deep plunge into the sea, Neary inhales Quinn each time they meet again, the only man who truly knows her.

She wanders through the dingy bars of Londonís edgy underground music scene, through the tangled relationships of wealthy ex-hippies and punks and their entourage. She attends a party at the home of Mallory and Morven Dunfries, the king and queen of the alternative culture of music and filmmaking of an earlier generation, past glories thriving in the drugged decadence of wealth and excess. Skirting the edges of the gathering, Cass studies the players. A transient existence become a way of life; her camera is her only companion, a rough-edged exterior hiding a brilliant mind and a talent for capturing stark, arresting images on film. No longer young, Cass is growing tired of hardship, using her instincts to survive the unspoken rules of this underground way of life. And no sooner does Cass rendezvous with Quinn than he disappears again.

After a series of brutal murders in London that link directly to Morven and Mallory Dunfries, Cass finds herself in the isolated landscape of Landís End on the coast of the continent, far from the city, land owned by the Dunfries, the scene of an infamous underground movie that has become a cult favorite. It is in Landís End that Cass faces the detritus of a lifestyle grown stale and destructive, a rebellious young woman she meets there reminding her of those years when her art infused everything she did. Facing unexpected challenges in this isolated place, Cass survives, leaves quietly, the future clearer.

Dark, drug and crime-riddled as they are, Handís Cass Neary novels are daring, fearless forays into strange landscapes, from the otherworldly coast of Landís End to scenes of a near-dystopian London, with its boarded-up mansions and burrow-like squats. Delightfully acerbic, Neary accumulates the cultural details of each new situation, scanning, categorizing, choosing her options. This eccentric, flawed protagonist is made more human, memorable for her boundary-breaking behavior, her intimate thoughts, fears and ragged dreams kept in a private vault shared only with Quinn. Cass treads the garbage-strewn alleys and cobbled streets only the denizens of poverty inhabit, civilizationís refuse rebuilt from scraps, violence, and the demands of survival. Bathed in shadow, Cass Nearyís photographs illuminate this alternative universe: ďThey were all broken people. I know because I broke some of them.Ē The journey is not yet finished.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2016

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