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Aud Torvingen is back -- contemporary fiction's toughest, most emotionally complicated noir hero returns to teach a new round of lessons in hard-hitting justice, and to confront new adversaries: her own vulnerability and desire.

The steely shell of Nicola Griffith's seemingly indomitable protagonist Aud Torvingen appears to be cracking. The six-foot-tall fury (who proved in The Blue Place and Stay that she can kill you as easily as look at you) is shaken by the shocking consequences of the self-defense class she's been teaching, and her investigation of what seems to be run-of-the-mill real-estate fraud is turning out to be more than she bargained for.

Always brilliantly intertwines the dramatic episodes of Aud's class with the increasingly complicated investigation that introduces Aud to the limits of self-reliance, and to the scary and beautiful prospect of allowing oneself to depend on other people. What emerges is a thrilling, thoroughly engrossing novel that imbues Griffith's "classic noir hero" (The New York Times Book Review) with an emotional complexity that far exceeds the boundaries of the genre, and will push Griffith to her well-deserved place at the front rank of new-wave literary crime writers.

463 pages, Hardcover

First published May 3, 2007

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About the author

Nicola Griffith

50 books1,515 followers
Nicola Griffith has won the Los Angeles Times' Ray Bradbury Prize, the Society of Authors' ADCI Literary Prize, the Washington State Book Award (twice), the Nebula Award, the Otherwise/James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award, the World Fantasy Award, Premio Italia, Lambda Literary Award (6 times), and others. She is also the co-editor of the Bending the Landscape series of anthologies. Her newest novels are Hild and So Lucky. Her Aud Torvingen novels are soonn to be rereleased in new editions. She lives in Seattle with her wife, writer Kelley Eskridge, where she's working on the sequel to Hild, Menewood.

* Aud Torvingen

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5 stars
309 (32%)
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386 (40%)
3 stars
184 (19%)
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48 (5%)
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15 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 80 reviews
Profile Image for Fiona.
1,271 reviews235 followers
December 27, 2019
This wasn't the meditative experience of the first two novels, but it's a book about Aud Torvingen and that's a stellar start.

This time around, we alternate chapters with flashbacks to the past; specifically a self-defense class run by Aud. In the present day, Aud is still finding her feet, but she's clearly come a long way since book two. And in the flashbacks, the advice given for self defence is excellent.

It's always hard for me to find my words with this Aud series, and Nicola Griffiths in general - I'm so in awe of the way she writes, and The Blue Place is a book that has become a guaranteed escape for me, so any attempt at objectivity always feels insincere. But my world is a better place for knowing Aud Torvingen, and though this is the end of the series for now, I'm happy to have been here.
Profile Image for jo.
613 reviews497 followers
May 1, 2015
april 2015. i finished this. re-read it from scratch with new eyes. i am no longer willing or inclined to pronounce on the motives that lie behind the creation of this book. in fact, i feel pretty lousy (presumptuous, for one) for having done so in the first place. i have also discovered that NG has MS, which would have been easily findable had i finished the book in the first place, since it is in the afterword. many of the other things i wrote in my OR i also find now wrong, though not cussedly wrong; just wrong readings of the book. aud is not mellower here. she's as taut and rageful as she is in the previous books of this series. in fact, murder fantasies pretty much dominate this book. 1-5 below are all wrong. i don't like how 3. plays out, but i don't find it to be a propelling force in the novel at all. what didn't work for me this second time around were: a) the way the atlanta plot wraps up (it's signaled pretty early on and this signaling doesn't disappoint; why not surprise us nicola?) and (and here i stick with OR) b) all that damn throwing around of cash. just like the first time around, so boring.

original 12/09 review below
man, one star. i love this writer. i love her previous aud torvingen books.

this is what happened here. griffith's torgingen mysteries are a taut affair. they are taut because the character is taut. she's a bundle of nerves, a firecracker (or something bigger) always ready to explode, a knot of rage. in the first novel of this three-book series she got mellower at some point, and that was okay, too. but i guess griffith wasn't too comfortable with that, because she killed the cause of her mellowness pretty fast.

is this novel an attempt to give us a more mellow aud? maybe. i am trying to get into the mind of nicola griffith at the time when she set out to write this book and this is what i think she told herself:

1. i want to write a longer book
2. i want to write a book with two entwined plots
3. i want to make dornan and aud compete for the same woman
4. i want less violence
5. i want aud to heal

i think 1. and 4., if that's indeed what NG told herself, were mistakes. tautness and violence are too much part of aud's persona.

but the most damning thing, as far as the novel is concerned, is that both plot lines are really weak, and compounding them strengthens neither of them, it just makes the book a long pointless slog.

and that depresses me. so i'm abandoning this long mystery some 100 pages to the end, and i don't feel at all bad about it. (oh, and the throwing around of large wads of cash gets pretty boring after a while.)
Profile Image for Sam (Hissing Potatoes).
546 reviews18 followers
April 15, 2020
There was a bit of a different, looser feel to this book compared to the first two, possibly because it was written so many years after them. But I absolutely love Aud and Dornan's friendship and the lessons of the self-defense class throughout the book. Griffith's to-the-point writing intermixed with beautiful nature descriptions continued to amaze.
Profile Image for Ulf Kastner.
65 reviews4 followers
February 10, 2008
It seems that I can only muster a handful of random realizations and remarks pertaining to this third book built around the Aud Torvingen character (after The Blue Place and Stay):

Aud has psychopathic leanings. Why else would she ponder the ease with which she could maim or kill just about anybody she encounters by ways of going into nonchalant anatomical detail about such violence? Part of me gets this line of compulsive mind wandering of someone with a detached sense of physical superiority but another part of me thought `what the hell?' when this sort of inner-voice violence Tourette's surfaces in the company of people she's emotionally vested in.

Now that Aud is independently wealthy I'm suddenly struck by the parallels between her and Pippi Longstocking. No cash-flow worries - check. Invincibly strong - check. A parent that lives as a political leader across an ocean - check. Sleeps with her feet on the pillow in case a burglar enters her bedroom so she can overwhelm them with the benefit of the element of surprise that brings - alright, so Aud Torvingen wouldn't exactly subscribe to that, but the gist of Pippi's thinking reeks of what Aud would approve of (foresight, preparation, improving of odds in a potential confrontation.)

I must not be a fan of two storylines told in alternating chapters. I kinda struggled with my motivation to continue reading the less favorite of the two stories comprising Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World and now with Always I was dreading the storyline flashing back to Aud giving a self-defense class to a group of Southern women in Atlanta because for me personally it didn't flow nearly as well as the storyline of her flying out to Seattle with her friend Dornan to investigate peculiar circumstances involving a warehouse property she inherited from her dad (that's part of the independent wealth bit I touched upon earlier.)

The hardcover edition of Always has one of the most hideous book covers I've encountered in quite some time (that is, in a book I was actually interested in reading.) My apologies to Nellys Li, the Penguin Group designer responsible for this...inexplicable design. I sincerely hope it didn't take longer than an hour to lay out and I'm saddened that Riverhead Books didn't treat Griffith to more attractive options (apparently there were LESS attractive options, as difficult as I find that to fathom.)

In closing I'm left hoping that Nicola Griffith puts the Aud Torvingen stories on hold to write something more exciting. I guess I understand the attraction to a character developed over several books, but in good Aud Torvingen fashion I'd prescribe honing some other skills, stretch a different set of muscles. It's too easy and inviting to grow complacent with what's familiar and safe.
Profile Image for Melody.
2,644 reviews270 followers
November 8, 2012
11/2012. This time, I paid more attention to the self-defense chapters. Maybe some of it will stick. I enjoyed the Seattle setting a lot, since I've now been to Seattle enough that I recognized many of the places. Mostly, though, I just love Aud.

6/2009. I'm more than half in love with Aud Torvingen. In this, Griffith's third book about her, she's a bit more human. Almost fallible. Clueless when it comes to one particular woman. The plotting is taut, the dual storyline engaging, and the characters very strong. A gripping, well-written and ultimately hopeful book.
Profile Image for MargaretDH.
1,051 reviews17 followers
October 26, 2021
Aud goes to Seattle!

This is Griffith's third Aud (rhymes with crowd) book, and this time we meet her Norweigian mother, see a new love interest and see Aud Fix Stuff. In parallel story taking place before the main events of the book, Aud teaches a self-defense class to a group of women, and there are Consequences.

Griffith does a great job writing contemporary noir. With a deft and light hand, Griffith builds the atmosphere so slowly, you don't notice until it's oppressive. The mystery is less prominent in this installment, and more focused on Aud working through life changing events of the last two books. But the plot still ticks along satisfyingly, and we see Aud grow as she confronts how her past and future intersect. This is series is also incredibly sensuous and physical. We taste and feel what Aud does, and the descriptions of how Aud teaches a group of nice Southern ladies to learn what it means to punch and kick and strike in righteous anger are wonderfully visceral.
Profile Image for Alena.
829 reviews21 followers
October 11, 2008
Oh my, I think that's the best book in the series yet.

It's another emotional read with fantastic prose. The structure of the book works well, it changes between chapters that continue Aud's story, I'd say about 6 months after Stay ends, and chapters that have Aud teach self-defense to a group of women. While the one story arch follows Aud on taking further steps on the ladder out of grief, grief that was so central in Stay, the self-defense arch really gives another insight into Aud's philosophy of life, a philosophy that seems to be challenged in the other story-line. While a strong teacher in class (this storyline is set in the future), Aud in this novel really struggles with herself.

After the emotional turmoil in Stay, where the grief for Julia encompassed me as well, Always shows a new phase for Aud. She continues her friendship with Dornan, which is beautiful to read. She's really more like a child at times in her insecurity in how to deal with other people. Opening up to Dornan, I think, also allows her to be more open with others, for example her mother who we get to meet. At the core of the novel, however, is Aud opening up to another woman. It's both beautiful and painful to read. There are moments of jealousy, which seems to be a new experience, that are written so convincingly that I wanted to slap Dornan myself. And other than with Julia, there's a lot of negotiation going on between Aud and Kick, they both make mistakes and try to fumble their way through life and this relationship. That the whole thing ends on a positive note was very rewarding at 4 am this morning.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dide.
1,248 reviews41 followers
June 20, 2021
2021 Re-read Update!
After reading the first two books in this series, my views of the main character Aud is drastically different. I am warmed by her character idiosyncrasies and infact have grown to really like her; within all her calculating self certainty lies a sincereness for and to love. So once again the Author has me in standing ovation. I also feel more informed and interested to know about what my domestic stats say about abuses and their victims.

Previous Review
For some weird reason I couldn't finish this book as fast as I would any other....I just kept feeling disinterested on multiple occasions it however got my full attention some chapters towards the end. A lot of this reason could be attributed to the self defense theories etc ....it didn't just get my attention but it later did and I think for me to really appreciate the book I need to reread it. Funnily I just found out I read this book before the previous two in the series so it might do me good to go read those ones before coming back to this.
By the way Aud is just an unrealistic superwoman. ...described to resemble the super men in heterosexual romance books and films. The womanly features were almost unidentifiable and perhaps they really aren't available. Not my kind of admirable woman but I'd try to read the others to get a possibly better insight to her character. 4 stars given earlier
Profile Image for Gill.
743 reviews25 followers
October 1, 2019
Aud Torvingen first appeared in The Blue Place and Stay, but Always can be read as a standalone novel, although you might not appreciate the character development here.

For me this is the strongest of the three works. Griffith interleaves real-time chapters set in Seattle with flashback chapters in Atlanta some months earlier, where Aud had taught a beginners' self-defence class. It is immediately implied that something terrible happened in Atlanta and as we follow the self-defence lessons a feeling of dread grows.

Apart from anything else, it really made me think about fear and personal safety, and these things will stay with me.
Profile Image for K.
341 reviews3 followers
September 8, 2011
Guilty pleasure that's not really that guilty. Like the others, progressive, mindful, sensual, and tiny bit wicked. Only misses the 5 stars by being just a touch too over-the-top. The utopia Aud promises to set up at the end of the book is in fact a utopia I would invest in, but I just can't believe it will all be true, even in that fictional version of the world where women like Aud and Kick exist. Great sex scenes. Great love scenes. Real friendship. The question: What does it mean to live with integrity? With grace? The fantasies of beauty, power, money, and violence refracted through a lens I can relate to. In chapter 10 Griffith writes about an ancient chair and identity with reverence, wisdom, and a faltering at the end that almost makes Aud into a real human. Bonus points for being set in Seattle. Thanks to my ladies at The Mystery Bookshop on 117 Cherry Street! You rock my socks off!
Profile Image for Vanessa.
109 reviews
July 10, 2014
I was disappointed by the third and final book of the Aud series. The format of alternating between the main story taking place in Seattle and the self defense class in Atlanta just didn't work.

Seattle was the better of the two stories but was still plagued with the "I'm completely and totally devoted to a person I just met" that happened in the first book of the series.

The self defense class "story" didn't even feel like a story--more like a book on self defense (that may or may not be accurate). There were too many characters, especially since none of them were interesting and most were annoying. What happened at the end was fairly obvious from early on.

I'm not sure why Griffith changed the format for the last book...but it just didn't work. I'd give it a 2 out of 5 but that's only because I already knew the characters. As a stand-alone book, it'd only get one star.
Profile Image for Sarah.
155 reviews5 followers
February 3, 2020
I love this book. When I first read it, I was unaware that it was book 3 of a trilogy. I didn't get any of the references to Julia, but I loved it anyway. (Later, I read the series through in the right order. It made more sense.)

Interspersed with the plot are chapters about Aud teaching a self-defense class. These are my favorite chapters. The women in the class are interesting, and the culmination of their plotline is—to me—even more interesting than the climax of the main plotline. Additionally, I feel like all the stuff Aud teaches is sound advice, which I will most likely heed when I am in any sort of scary situation.

I am about to read this book for the third time. I think it's the best out of the trilogy, but that could be because I read it first. Lastly, the cover is really nice.
Profile Image for Rob.
521 reviews36 followers
April 10, 2016
...With Always Griffith once again delivers a fascinating novel. It is an impressive bit of character development. The author pulls no punches when it comes to making her main character suffer. The crime element in the novel is not quite as present as in the first two volumes. If you approach this as a whodunit, the novel will probably not satisfy you. Personally I was much more interested in seeing if Aud would manage to find some stability in her life and heal some of the scars that are so prominently present in her story, and in that respect the novel absolutely delivers. If you enjoyed Griffith's science fiction and are not afraid to try a different genre don't hesitate to pick these up.

Full Random Comments review
Profile Image for Grace Fisher.
21 reviews2 followers
December 16, 2014
Aud Torvingen is the lesbian power fantasy I never knew I wanted. Strong and silent, tall and square-jawed, she's got money, sick martial arts skills, and a fast mind. She gets involved in interesting cases, inevitably tangles with a gorgeous woman with some sort of Trouble in her life, and kicks a lot of ass.

Griffith's writing is enjoyable - great use of short, punchy sentences. Conveys smell and feel of a place really well, whether it's Atlanta, Seattle, or Norway.

Basically if you want mystery/thriller that's not yet again about boring ex-military men with stubbly lantern jaws, please read this series. They're probably best in order, but I read them 2-3-1 and was only a bit confused.
Profile Image for Maria.
629 reviews102 followers
March 17, 2020
"We always have a choice of some kind, just not always the choices we would like."

Nicola Griffith has such a fascinating voice, such a powerful relationship with language. The level of texture is almost overwhelming, transporting the reader into a world that feels as real as the one that seems to yield its power entirely to the narrative. There is a particular light, vibrancy of colour and smell – a whole sensorial experience.

There is a much different energy to Always when compared to The Blue Place and Stay, but Aud Torvingen makes sense of it with her muscle memory, connecting this journey of change and self-discovery.
Profile Image for Stefanie.
652 reviews17 followers
December 31, 2019
Oh man. I would not have finished this except I own a signed copy and generally love Nicola Griffith's writing and felt a bit obligated to finish the "Aud" series. Her wordsmithing skill is on display here but the sadly, the story just drags. And while Aud, the heroine, is undoubtedly still a badass, she was irritating in ways I didn't expect in this entry. The ending feels good, but I wouldn't fault anyone who couldn't make it there.

The story is strangely split into two narratives: in one, Aud is leaving Atlanta for Seattle with her friend Dornan, on her way to visit her mother. In another, which we understand happens in the immediate past in Atlanta, Aud teaches a self-defense class to a group of women. These narratives are unconnected for the whole of the book, except in that in the self-defense class narrative, we get to see how Aud is (still) coping with the events of the first book, The Blue Place and the second, Stay (which yeah, you should probably read before this one - and anyway they're both better), and there's a background mystery about what went wrong to the point that Aud is a bit downtrodden and hunted as she arrives to Seattle.

Despite the Atlanta / self-defense class chapters being repetitive in terms of form (you really do feel as if you're in the self-defense class with these women; it's the next best thing to actually taking a class yourself), I found them far more interesting to read. Probably because there's a straightforward puzzle behind it - trying to figure out what in particular exploded to make Aud glad to leave Atlanta. Meanwhile, I found the Seattle chapters to be quite meandering. Aud gets involved with an indie movie being filmed on property she owns...maybe because of Dornan? And the film is being sabotaged? And Aud has to sort it out, because...reasons? Meanwhile she manages to get interested in "Kick" Kuiper, the former stuntwoman/current caterer who also happens to be Dornan's love interest for a hot minute . More so than the other books, there's also a lot of focus on how wealthy Aud is. Like, SUPER wealthy. I mean, rich people are people too, but it was a bit off-putting.

So yeah, I lost interest. For several months. When I picked this book back up again, I was looking forward to reading the conclusion to the Atlanta mystery (and it's a good one!) but was pleasantly surprised that the narrative between Aud and Kick deepened and became more of the focus . The film sabotage and Kick/Aud relationship plotlines come together in a dramatic climax that felt a little staged (excuse the pun) but emotionally on point.

There's a lot in this book that's great, but oof. Mashed between a lot of what feels like filler.
Profile Image for shrug city.
628 reviews
September 1, 2017
I love Aud Torvingen so much. Here we have a butch, Norwegian private detective who gets to go about taking joy in the strength of her body and having tragic and complicated love affairs! Also, I want to date her. The best thing about the Aud Torvingen series is its mindfulness, expressed in a way that is almost antithetical to the modern treat-yourself conception but there all the same: Aud is intensely present in her body and in her perception of the world. Here we get to see some of the definitions of her philosophy in the segments where she teaches a self-defense class, which I really liked, even though (and perhaps because) it did take us out of the main plotline.

The main plotline, unfortunately, is just a little weaker and less emotionally resonant than the otherwise unrelated self-defense vignettes. There is some good stuff there: a little bit about Aud's ironclad perceptions getting challenged, a new love interest (caterer/stunt double is not a career combination I have ever conceived of, but it really hits the wish fulfillment category). Part of it is that Aud is not as grounded in Seattle as she was in Atlanta. She doesn't have a history there, or a support system, which strips back all her community and leaves only the 2000s equivalent of AirSpace, the sterile high-class hotels and fancy restaurants of the very wealthy. Another is that the plot is significantly lower-stakes for Aud: she's in it mostly to... clear off a film crew on one of her properties so she can, what, do something with it? She doesn't really care about the property. She doesn't really care about the crew. She does, after a while, begin to care about Kick, the aforementioned love interest, but there it's not a very emotionally resonant plotline for much of the novel.

However: any time spent with Aud is a good time. She's just a fantastic protagonist, which makes me excuse some of the wish-fulfillment excess of preternatural competence and fabulous wealth. Sometimes it's enough to just sink into my butch lesbian crimefighter fantasy and Griffith's beautiful prose.
Profile Image for Arinn Dembo.
Author 19 books63 followers
March 5, 2020
Just finished this one, so I thought I'd make a quick post.

This novel was the last of book of a trilogy about Aud Torvingen, the Norwegian ex-cop. It's another great story about a great character, and I really couldn't have asked for a better conclusion to an arc about healing, feeling, and real personal growth.

As an #ownvoices work, I should note that this novel also introduces another aspect of Griffith's life experience, in that there is a well-written character with MS.

I think that ultimately what I love about these novels is the fact that while Aud is never "fixed"--her PTSD is as real and vibrant at the end of the series as it was at the beginning--that by the end of her arc, she has learned to cope, and to embrace real life and real change. This is a luxury that is almost never afforded to the male protagonists in noir fiction, who seldom get happy endings and are usually defined by their vices and failed relationships rather than by their ability to grow, or the desire to have a real positive impact on the world around them.

I don't particularly want to spoil this book or any other of the trilogy, but I will say that it takes incredible skill to write three novels that are incredibly, realistically violent, and very noir, and still give the heroine an ending that embodies healing and maturity in a believable, humane way.

This is me, applauding. And even though these books contain no vampires or spaceships, and thus are usually outside my wheelhouse--I definitely think these are wonderful lesbian characters and great stories. I'm very glad I stepped outside my comfort zone to read them.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for K.S. Trenten.
Author 10 books34 followers
May 28, 2022
Another powerful book about Aud Torvingen, one of the strongest and most seductive protagonists I’ve ever encountered in fiction. Only in this story, she loses her power and has to take it back. Gradually. Contemplating her revenge, how much damage (and how much good) she’s going to do, Aud finds a home and a community in Seattle. All the while she’s haunted by a self-defense class she taught in Atlanta, the affect she had on her students. Her mother surprises her by reconnecting with her after their estranged relationship, revealing sides of herself as a person Aud wasn’t aware of. All this is complicated by a budding romance with a pricky and powerful woman in her own right, a woman who is also losing some of what defined her. This romance may actually rival Aud’s old passion for Julia in its strength.

These are just a few sentences describing an intense emotional journey which weaves itself in and out of a mystery involving a piece of Aud’s property. There are many mysteries awaiting Aud; some of them personal. She starts out confronting the mystery of her mother, a reunion with a woman she thought she knew, showing an unexpected side of herself. She begins with confusion, disorientation; unusual states for her. This intensifies with the trap she walks into and how she deals with the effect. All the while Dornan is at her side, proving again and again what a close friend he is. All of these elements come together in rich, heady, and complex story worthy of Aud Torvingen.
Profile Image for Rien Gray.
Author 16 books69 followers
February 10, 2022
4 stars - "Dornan. He's..." He drinks coffee. I kill the people who mess with his girlfriends. "He's a friend."

Presently the last book in the series, Always bounces between Aud in present-day Seattle and several months before at a self-defense class in Atlanta, with the building promise of violence between every chapter. Compared to the other two, I felt this one dragged tension-wise in places, although the prose is still excellent and I always like to see authors experiment with structure.

General ending spoilers:
Profile Image for Kathy.
1,055 reviews
August 10, 2022

Nothing and no one can keep you perfectly safe. There are only probabilities. We prepare, we practice, we do the work, and then we try to forget about it, because no matter how big and fast and strong you are, how heavily armed or well trained, there's always going to be someone out there who is bigger, faster, or stronger. Always.

Some big feminist, one of those dead ones, said men teach us to be afraid to control us...

Andrea Dworkin: "We are taught systematically to be afraid. We are taught to be afraid so that we will not be able to act, so that we will be passive, so that we will be women..."

Like your children, you need to know when something is wrong. Like your children, you need to believe you have the right to defend yourself. Self-defense is about self-worth, self-esteem, self-love. Self. We are worth fighting for.
Profile Image for Mark.
Author 1 book6 followers
March 19, 2019
As always, I never regret reading Griffith. This book is tightly paced; its differing plot lines interweave with a simple directness the never seems overwrought or discordant. Aud is always Aud, but her transformation from the beginning of the series to this is dramatic while remaining consistent to her character. Her family shaping is revealed here, and the choices she finally makes are driven from her own understanding of of what she needs for herself rather than the outside expectation she was surrounded by in Blue Place. This books contains one of the greatest descriptions of an exercise regimen that I've ever read; I felt fully in Aud's body throughout Tae Kwon Do class, even though I am a dancer rather than a martial artist. I was sorry when this book was over.
Profile Image for Vickie.
64 reviews2 followers
May 6, 2010
"You're a sensualist, a hedonist of the first order," Kick tells Aud, right near the end of the book, and you know then that Kick has Aud's number. For all of her expediency, efficiency, and near-Terminator ability to assess and nuetralize danger, Aud Torvingen is a creature as much a slave of her body as she is a master of it. Aud has herself convinced that she is fully in control, and a creature of intellect. She relies on and revels in her formidable deductive skills, and is even disappointed when antagonists and circumstances fall short of her expectations. Throughout this trilogy, however, Nicola Griffith has shown Aud to also be a woman who enjoys her body, through martial arts or eating delicous food or taking the body to the bar for a quick dusting off of the ol' cobwebs.

Always is the third book in a trilogy starring Aud Torvingen, an aloof, physically dangerous woman in Atlanta. What started in The Blue Place as a standard detective noir, complete with trouble spelled with a capital "T" walking into the office, evolved into one of the most sensual reading experiences I ever had, which continued on through the next book, Stay.

In The Blue Place, I became involved with Aud's mind: neatly detached, but able to conjure up the atmosphere of her surroundings. I never met a travel book as persuasive as Griffith's novel, almost convincing me to visit Norway despite by abherrence to cold weather.

In Stay, I learned how Aud could use her methodical mind to break herself away from society, and, like a certain protaganist from Hemingway's "Big Two Hearted River", use the action of living a simplified, almost rustic life to seperate herself from her pain. Despite her attempts to isolate herself, Aud is drawn back to society, and humanity. It's not in her nature to disengage, despite her aloof attitude, but to over-engage and think more into a situation than most people.

The double story line in Always serves the purpose of making the ending and beginning believable. The plots mirror each other, while at the same time providing an introduction and closure to each storyline. Despite throwing in this new device that gives us a stronger grasp of how history affects Aud's decisions, the plot is a little flat, lacking the dynamite of true tension to keep you emotionally engaged.

I feel as if Always is the book that Griffith had been waiting forever to write, and found the opportunity finally in her third book featuring Aud. The novel features quite prominently two subjects near and personal to her heart: multiple sclerosis and self-defense (though not together in a strange meld-y way ^_^). Her personal connection to these two aspects of the two main characters made research no doubt a snap, but it also stunted her plot. Make no mistake: these two subjects were actually the best written areas of the book, from the growing escalation of the self-defense classes to the foregone violent climax to the nearly opposite direction Aud must take to navigate Kick's situation. The rest of the book, however, to put it in a word, lacked. Perhaps the fact that Aud has money, and in Seattle, could toss it around willy-nilly, made the dramatic tension lessened, as opposed to the wilds of Norway. Real estate scams are kind of inherently boring, despite Aud's awesome sleuthing. Also, Aud cares about what happens to the movie set because she cares about Kick, but I feel that she, and the reader, are never really invested emotionally in the fate of the studio and the people in it. I might be missing something important, maybe some big moment for Aud where she starts to bury her apathy that borders on misanthropy, but if so, it was a such a subtle moment that most probably wouldn't get it.

That being said, I still liked the book. Kick was a good addition, a strong enough character to contend with a ghost. It is in Kick that Aud finds her mirror, and her match. A woman who knows her own body, and is at home within it and her surroundings. And like Aud, Kick has some issues that are sensitive enough that, when twinged, she lashes out in pain. And super kudos for using the word "Ware", as in "beware", broken down to its component parts. Griffith has a love of the English language that permeates her paragraphs and gives the words taste in my mouth as well as images in my head. I will continue to read anything she writes, and I also follow her blog, Ask Nicola.

On a final note, the cover art is very... interesting. Eschewing traditional ideas about how to fill in the space, the fist is coming at the reader, and it's pushed to the right of center. The bright purple cover color and bright green/yellow title suggest content more pulp-y than it contains. What I found most interesting is how it compares to the first two novels' covers. The Blue Place features a woman, presumably Aud, sitting quite comfortably sprawled, looking to the side. The image has the illusion of being much more wide than tall, narrowing our focus as well as suggesting that we are missing something important outside of the scene, especially as the image is cut off at strong angles. Stay has another interrupted image, this time of only the lower half of a woman's face, gradually disappating as you move to the side. The fist on the cover of Always, however, is coming towards the foreground, as if to engage you. I can almost see a story within the images themselves. Thoughts?

Profile Image for Wes.
147 reviews8 followers
April 27, 2020
I liked this book more than The Blue Place, but less than Stay. I did really enjoy the split-time perspectives. I liked understanding the way Aud thinks, and how she came to be that way. However, the way the different chapter perspectives worked was confusing to me at first, and led to a great deal of misunderstanding of the major plot points and the timeline. I would have loved to see this book properly edited to make the setting clear at all times. I think then it would have been a truly classic lesbian mystery.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
354 reviews6 followers
June 7, 2018
The main character is interesting and I enjoy the detail of some of her observations. She is also arrogant and condescending.
This book’s storyline is told in alternating chapters which are set in different times and places. It reads like two separate books that were squashed into one without benefit of a common narrative. I found myself skipping the Atlanta section and only reading the Seattle portion of the story.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Isblue.
111 reviews9 followers
February 1, 2020
And yes this is also a re-read. I really enjoy Aud dealing with normal women who are so unlike her. And I wonder how Aud came to be the person she is with her background. I'm really enjoying discovering Aud as a developing personality who is so new to relationships and yet so unchildlike in her person. I am hoping the author still plans on writing more Aud as she has epressed in the past.
November 17, 2018
Just finished re-reading Aud's final installment. Needed to be reminded to not be nice and to enjoy losing myself in exercise and physical work
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