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Book Note: Nicola Griffith, The Blue Place

I read this book about 30-Aug-2007. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1998. This note was last modified Sunday, 02-Sep-2007 16:34:00 PDT.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


A new author for me (suggested by a friend), and I'm just starting, but I'm liking it so far.

The protagonist, Aud Torvingen, is quite a piece of work. She's got all the survivalist / urban combat twitches, but also a full-blown diplomatic background (and knowledge of the 18 or whatever ways to shake hands, and how to dress for every situation, and how to pretend she's a member of any club she can discover). And money. I don't think she and Modesty Blaise would get along, but they'd probably work out a way to coexist without anybody getting hurt. If not—well, Blaise is much closer to a full-blown super-hero, it wouldn't be much of a contest.

She's also lesbian. It's almost ignored in the books. She picks up a couple of women on dates, gets serious about one of them, but never seems to have trouble with family, friends, or former police colleagues (in Atlanta!). Now, this is the way it should be, but I'm kinda surprised there isn't more trauma related to that in her history, for a book set in the 20th century in the USA, especially in the south.

Also, she likes the heat and even the humidity. That's a major disbelief breaker for me.

She's been on the police, is now a private consultant, and has independent means. And I think hasn't figured out what she wants out of life. She's achieved the basics, and hasn't really ever investigated having an emotional life. Some progress is made in this book, and there are some indications the emotional openings made in this book may be maintained in her future. There are two books, perhaps I'll find out.

Two major gun moments, two major gun gaffes

Griffith seems to think that Glock handguns are made out of plastic; she specifically refers to the "polymer barrel". This is a mistake one could not make if one had ever actually touched one. Wikipedia has a good article section on the "plastic gun" myth; this book appears to have been published 13 years after that myth got created by irresponsible journalists, it should have been easy enough to find the truth (Wikipedia wasn't founded until 3 years after the book was published, so she couldn't have looked it up on Wikipedia, though).

In a scene earlier in the book but later in the protagonist's timeline, an American hit man confronts the protagonist in Norway, with a suppressed rifle. This is either good luck or good research; As I understand it, people who can get rifles in Norway can get suppressors, and are encouraged to use them (it keeps the sound levels down for the neighbors). However, she also makes a point of the rifleman being left-handed and shooting left-handed. Left-handed rifles exist, but they're scarcer than hen's teeth, and it seems unlikely that he could have obtained a left-handed rifle illegally on short notice in Norway. When Aud needs to get an illegal gun, the best they can come up with for her (and she has first-rate connections for that) is an old Lahti pistol (WWII vintage or older) with only one magazine, but some additional ammo (loose).

So far as I can see, neither actually means anything. In the "left-handed" scene, changing "left" to "right" doesn't change the meaning at all. Nothing is ever done with the image of the Glock as having a polymer barrel, either; it isn't taken anywhere through a metal detector or anything like that, it's just in the hands of a guy running around the Atlanta suburbs. So it doesn't damage the structure of the book, just my suspension of disbelief. The author displays alarming ignorance of basic infrastructure for thrillers. (On the other hand, her description of "sticky hands" from a Wing Chun perspective sounds quite familiar from my very out-of-date Southern Praying Mantis training. At least some of her sources seem to be good.)

Looking back, I think I enjoyed the book more than this really sounds like.

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David Dyer-Bennet