Stay | Reviews
New York Times Book Review
Aud Torvingen is a classic noir hero, a private eye who's smart, resourceful,
cool as a cucumber--and badly damaged. Stay, Nicola Griffith's second
novel about Aud...is a detective story that's also a meditation on grief...
Griffith is a writer of considerable gifts. Her sentences shimmer, her powers
of observation and description are razor sharp.
Stay is a bracing, stylized thriller, but Griffith's real genius is in her
portrayal of the brilliant, though damaged, Aud, who embodies the traits
of the mythical Norse berserker; a woman who loses herself in the beauty
and balletic control of pure violence yet seeks salvation through finding
another of Geordie's victims. A finely nuanced, frightening plunge into the dark heart of an exceptional woman.
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
Griffith opens her latest on the roof of
a cabin in a North Carolina mountaintop forest, moving from
a wide focus on a primordial wilderness to acute close-ups of
particular delicious sights and smells. Even before we learn
the barest details about tall, blonde, singular Aud ("rhymes
with shroud") Torvingen, we are seduced by her awareness, competence
and her relish for the physical details of life. ... We are taken
inside a character who
is as brutal as she is sensitive, as wildly and exuberantly
violent as she is bereaved. Yet as Griffith is enthralling us
with each utterly convincing yet surprising turn, she also allows
Aud to move forward emotionally. What makes Griffith's work
especially satisfying and exciting is the way her extraordinary
protagonist demolishes false human boundaries just as surely
as she demolishes bad people. Aud is hugely complex and unique,
and Griffith deserves a huge following.
Aud, the protagonist of this novel, is an intuitive, old-fashioned
sleuth who would do Elmore Leonard proud. She also happens to be
a lesbian, deeply grieving the murder of her beloved partner--a
character detail that makes Stay more layered than most thrillers.
When a friend asks Aud to leave the woods, where she's retreated
to live alone, to track down his missing fiancee, she begins a
journey that deftly combines a murder mystery with an exploration
of loss... Griffith's heroine has earned the right to many more
adventures and books.
by her lover's death in a slaying that was her fault, Aud Torvingen
has sequestered herself in an isolated Appalachian cabin she's
painstakingly rebuilding. Grief is Aud's only companion--a grief
so acutely and powerfully evoked that it's almost another character
in this brilliant and multifaceted novel. Reluctantly drawn
back to the world by her oldest friend, whose fiancee has gone
missing, Aud agrees to investigate, and quickly tracks the missing
Tammy Foster to a Soho loft. She also finds Geordie Karp, the
psychopath who turned Tammy into a sexual and psychological
slave and has already chosen his next victim, a 12-year-old
girl who's been smuggled into the country and sold to Karp.
Stopping Karp, a task for which Aud is uniquely suited, tests
her strength and her sanity; by transforming her grief into
vengeance, she's forced to come to terms with the violence and
brutality that are as central to her character as tenderness,
sensuality, and vulnerability. Tautly plotted and pulsating
with energy, this is a novel that won't let go, alternately
searing and shocking as well as soaring with lyrical prose that's
close to poetry in places. Aud, Nicola Griffith's complex protagonist
who made her first appearance in The Blue Place, is never less
than compelling in this stunning sequel.
a noir thriller with a female protagonist who makes La Femme
Nikita look like a Powerpuff Girl.
Tacoma News Tribune
With Stay, Griffith proves she can write crime fiction
that stacks up more than favorably with the work of the best
writers in the field. The moral and emotional complexity
of her writing compares with that of Dennis Lehane. Her
bleak and frightening view of the "civilized" world is
on a par with that of Andrew H. Vachss. Her grasp and love
of the natural world is equal to that of James Lee Burke.
Lehane, Vachss and Burke have each taken crime fiction to
a new level and each has expanded the possibilities of the
genre. Nicola Griffith is the next name on a very short list.
Torvingen, Stay's protagonist, is a simmering mess of anger
beneath her cool, Nordic, butch exterior. She can deftly incapacitate
grown men with her bare hands and frequently does, but she really
just wants to hide in her Appalachian cabin, splitting wood
and mourning her lost lover. Award-winning dyke writer Nicola
Grifith employs a crime thriller's page-turning audacity and
hard-boiled heroine without succumbing to cheap genre cliches.
Like the protagonist, the language has a steely snap to it,
and it rarely gets morose or melodramatic. Even if you haven't
read The Blue Place, its predecessor, Stay is a captivating
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine:
The real power in the novel is the author's stern, strong,
accomplished heroine and the sheer, uncompromising
beauty of her prose. Whether it's a person or a place
or the space in between the two where emotions reside,
Griffith's writing is as spare as her heroine and packs as much punch.
by grief and righteous rage, Aud succeeds in all these tasks
and more--in a darkly revealing, furiously entertaining adventure.
sexy, and decidedly dangerous. Aud's powder-keg eagerness to
make bad guys regret they were born does nothing to detract
from her charisma.
is the second title in Griffith's mystery series (following
The Blue Place, 1998) featuring six-foot-tall, twentysomething
Aud Torvingen, an independently wealthy, retired Atlanta police
lieutenant. Aud, once a cold-blooded killing machine, feels
responsible for the death of her lover, Julia. Blindsided by
grief, she throws herself into renovating her isolated North
Carolina cabin. Then a longtime friend begs her for help in
finding his missing girlfriend, Tammy, and Aud faces the double
challenge of reentering civilization and tracking Tammy down
in New York City. Aud finds a frightened, submissive woman quite
unlike the Tammy she knew before. When Tammy finally reveals
the full extent of her treatment at the hands of a sadistic
sociopath, Aud returns to New York City and a violent encounter
with Tammy's abuser. Griffith knows how to build her scenes,
and her precision results in a taut, compelling plotline. Even
more impressive is the complicated, supremely capable character
of Aud, given to great bouts of grief punctuated by brutal moments
of violence. This is one tough detective.
Grief and its hard lessons fill the pages of Griffith's gripping new novel. A strong
Griffith's tautly balanced prose perfectly complements her heroine's
erratic progress. Whether immersing readers in a molten bath of sexual
tension or deftly undercutting the solidity of the ghostly companion
Aud creates to assuage her loneliness, Griffith skillfully links sensual
details with emotional content, anchoring us firmly in Aud's brutal,
beautiful world. Standard noir heroes remain essentially unchanged,
lonely knights pursuing hopelessly romantic quests. In Stay, Griffith
allows Aud to outgrow her already-breached armor. Vulnerable, stubborn,
honest and engaging, she's now as large as life.
San Diego Union-Tribune:
Griffith's prose is at once brutal and beautifully wrought. With
each chapter she teeters between the cut-and-dried formality of
policespeak and the lyricism of a hardened Annie Dillard. The attention
to detail here is impressive--some chapters read like a How-To guide to
home restoration, living off the land, private investigation. Stay has
a central character both hard-boiled and a softie at heart, and momentum
like a car wreck.
A sizzling read. But beyond the intelligent pain of the haunting
plot, there is Griffith's riveting character study of how a woman
shattered by the death of her partner finds the strength and the spirit to
patch her own life back together. Stay is a brutally beautiful "novel noir" in the best tradition of James Ellroy - but its many dark, soul-menacing shadows are
brilliantly illuminated by the completely true depiction of Aud's inspirational emotional
healing. There is plenty of
tough-sleuth pleasure to be found in Stay, but the true triumph of Griffith's hard-boiled mystery is how she handles its humanity.
Out with the old, in with the new. Ladies, you're gonna love our
kick-ass new cult-figure sex-symbol feminist-icon extraordinaire...
sexy, strong, vibrant, and totally knocked on her ass by a girl...She's
brave and intense, she knows how to love and how to fight. She takes
immense pleasure in her body. Her intellect is razor-sharp, her arms
strong enough to break a man's spine over her knee. Not once does she
say, "Yes, sir" to the dominant paradigm.
A novel that manages two very difficult tasks. The first: writing in a traditional, perhaps even ancient, genre, that of the crime noir, while updating it to fit a modern society... The second: communicating truths of identity and loss that resonate well beyond the noir genre and are, indeed, on a par with first-rate literary fiction.
Lambda Book Report:
Stay reads as allegory as well as cautionary tale; Aud is on a quest to recover herself, the self Julia loved, the self Aud believes Julia made possible... A story about untenable grief, unending loss and the broken path to redemptive healing, Stay showcases Griffith's skill at creating both interior and exterior landscapes and further explores the powerfully dynamic character of Aud, a detective walking a fine moral line between the killing machine she once was and the fragile lover she has become.
Stay is easily categorized within the thriller genre, the plot outline and actions warrant that, but strictly calling it a thriller does injustice to this novel. If this is about anything, it is about change; specifically Aud coming to terms not only with Julia's death but also with who she is or had been at the time of losing Julia. So whereas, a true thriller is driven by the suspense of the plot, in this one the plot plays secondary to the character development - but don't worry, you get pulled along as well as in any drama. Griffith doesn't forget to pack the novel with enough action to keep the pages turning.
The amazing thing about Griffith's writing is how absolutely real this character feels to me, even though all logic tells me she'd likely never exist. When she is violent, she is as methodological about it as when she's framing a window. But she's also something else. I think the word I'm searching for here is humane... in all her actions, not once would anyone mistake her for a male. This is not a female taking on a male role; Aud is clearly a woman, just a really different kind of woman.
There's one last aspect of Griffith's writing that I want to mention: it is tight and gorgeous. And it remains so whether it's describing a setting, getting in the head of her character, making social observation or simply just telling us what's going on. And even though I've made little of the plot, it gets high marks. I can't help but wonder/hope that Griffith will write a sequel to Stay. I believe there is yet more to tell about Aud.