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Average Rating 3.5
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  • Posted July 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Available Dark

    This novel isn’t one that defies description, exactly, but it does make it difficult. Its tone is bleak throughout, perhaps in keeping with the geographical landscape, made palpable by the author’s gorgeous writing. The plot is not complex, but that is not the crux of the book, which is the haunting quality of its beautiful prose.

    Cass Neary is a photographer with a moribund career, a woman prone to night terrors, who still indulges in her long-time near-addiction to alcohol and drugs of various kinds, from “speed” to crystal meth [about which I learned more than I ever wanted to know as to its effects on the human body, and mind] and everything in between. Nearly six feet tall, she is self-described as “a burned-out, aging punk with a dead gaze, a faded tattoo, and a raw red scar beside one eye.” The story takes her to the streets and highland areas of, respectively, Helsinki, where she is told “the entire country’s unemployed and on the verge of a psychotic breakdown,” and Reykjavik [also in dire straits, where there can be snow in August and where, she is told, “everything is an illusion”], trying to track down a long-lost friend/lover from her high school days of thirty years ago, and in an attempt to evade both the police and a murderer.

    Cass leaves the Lower East Side of Manhattan after receiving a lucrative job offer: to confirm the existence of, and authenticate, a group of photos depicting ritual killings, still photos which could have started life in a snuff film, something called “murderabilia.” There is much discussion about the photographer’s technique of using only available light, the converse of which gives rise to the title. Nordic, Viking and Icelandic religions and myths play a large part in the story line. We are told of “ghosts that didn’t know they were dead,” and there is a quote from the sagas of the region: “Death will claim no man until his time has come, and nothing will save a man who is fated to die. Therefore be bold: to die in fear is the worst death of all.”

    There were many cultural references that I must admit escaped me, which were, I’m guessing, linked to “punk” music [“death metal” and “black metal”] and “punk” photography [a genre I didn’t even know existed]. The writing is macabre and disturbing on several levels. This is a novel not easily forgotten.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2012

    Other than interesting descriptions of Helsinki and Iceland, thi

    Other than interesting descriptions of Helsinki and Iceland, this book has a confusing and unrealistic plot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2012

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