Mfred reviews Nicola Griffith’s Stay and Always (Aud Torvingen #2 and #3)

I really loved the first Aud Torvingen book. And was pretty disappointed in the sequels.   This review contains a lot of plot spoilers, so consider yourself warned.

Stay (book #2)  started off strong, and because I was so committed to the first book, I was as lost in Aud’s grief as she herself was.  But then Griffith has Tammy show up and I find myself caring about the book less and less.   I don’t really like Tammy and I don’t think the reader is supposed to — she isn’t a likeable character.  I followed faithfully while Aud rescues her and am even thrilled during the explosive action scenes. Griffith can write some page-turning stuff!  As the romance goes along, I find myself checking out.  It’s just not there.  And without the romantic drive that the first book had, the mystery plot thins out, the noir becomes slightly ridiculous.  By the time we get to poor, abused Luz, it’s too far-fetched for me– and that it really saying something for a noir crime thriller starring a semi-psychopathic/superhero Norwegian ex-cop.

In Always, the 3rd and final book, each chapter skips between the recent past in Atlanta and the present Aud in Seattle.  Griffith’s hints about ominous doings in the ATL are heavy handed. With each Atlanta chapter I feel more and more like I am attending a lecture on violence against women.  It’s expository, boring, and also terribly obvious.  Somebody in the self-defense class did something terrible with Aud’s teachings, and Aud is carrying the guilt for it.  By the third or fourth chapter, I’m certain who it is and what she did, and I can’t sustain an interest in the plot any further.

Aside from seeing her mother, I never quite buy what the hell Aud is doing in Seattle.  If you are a trained martial artist, and know so much about violence against women, then maybe you too should have seen the incredibly obvious plot points I saw in Atlanta?  And then Aud is conveniently poisoned, and it’s off on the mystery train.  Kick, Aud’s new love interest, is a shadow of a character and the physical attraction Aud feels isn’t enough to sell me on the relationship.

About half way through, I skim the end, confirm the who did what in Atlanta, and put the book down for good.