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by Nicola Griffith
Avon, August 1999
320 pages
ISBN: 0380790882

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Aud Torvingen is working in the security industry in Georgia. She is a former Atlanta Police Department Lieutenant who decided to quit the force after getting tired of dodging obstacles that prevented her from doing her job. It included everything from red tape to sexual harassment. She is now successful training police officers in personal defense and not having to answer to anyone. She believes that she is content but that will all change when one night she literally bumps into Julia Lyons-Bennett, an art appraiser.

Author Nicola Griffith takes a respite from writing science-fiction novels and tries writing suspense and mystery fiction. She introduces us to Aud, a troubled and unique heroine, who makes her debut in THE BLUE PLACE and returns in the sequel, STAY. The first book lays the foundation into the character of Aud by showing us who she is as well as her own personal demons. There is a sense of emptiness by the end of the story that leaves readers hanging. This book calls itself a novel of suspense but it more of a character study. There is a major development near the end of the book that is going to forever alter Aud’s life. Having not read STAY it is hard to say if it completes the story, but it is something to take into account. It might be a good idea to read STAY after finishing the Ms. Griffith’s other novel.

In THE BLUE PLACE, Julia hires Aud in helping her investigate what might be a possible fraud at her job. Ms. Lyons-Bennett relies heavily on her reputation and she has doubt of the authenticity of a painting done by one of the grandmasters in the art world. Julia had sent the painting to a beloved professor to see if he agrees to her conclusions. Unfortunately, the professor’s home is torched, killing him and destroying the evidence. Aud believes that Julia’s life might be in danger and reluctantly agrees to assist her.

All this is a ruse created by the author in order to establish a relationship between Julia and Aud. They work together, share deep dark secrets, fall in love and have an affair with each other. As things start to get dicey in the fraud investigation, Julia leaves for Norway on a business trip and hires Aud as a translator. The author uses this opportunity to write a travelogue of this Nordic country and explain the family history of Ms. Torvingen. It might have been a good idea to describe this beautiful country but without any pictures or illustrations it just seems to be pointless. The book cover would have been enough.

As a standalone novel, THE BLUE PLACE fails however it does a good job with the character development of Julia and Aud. The secondary ones were flat stereotypes who are easily forgettable. The book’s ending reads like a season finale of a television show where the viewing audience will have to wait three months to find out what happened next. Does STAY deliver? Check your local listings.

Reviewed by Angel L. Soto, December 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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