Hand’s tale burrows in deep. Part of its power derives from the sheer exuberant strangeness of Hand’s storytelling ... Hand is also unflinching in her depiction of her bad-girl antiheroine. Cass has much in common with Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander, but Cass is older and more grimly set in her antisocial ways ... The spooky finale of Hard Light leads readers deep into a macabre murder scene — courtesy of Edgar Allan Poe — that holds clues to the beginning of the art of photography itself. It’s a bravura ending that both lays some questions to rest and exhumes even more freshly disturbing images to trouble a reader’s peace of mind.
Cass is a seething cauldron of resentment, longing, and despair, and Hand does a remarkable job of making her both sadly credible and deeply sympathetic ... Cass’s first-person narration is entirely absorbing, and readers are favored with a constant stream of put-downs of bourgeois normalcy that are razor sharp and hilarious ... Hard Light, like its predecessors in the series, is compulsively readable, but taken altogether, the effect is of a highly improbable concatenation of events ... Hand is an expert at evoking atmospheric milieux, from the wilds of an offshore island to the urban deserts of modern Europe.
If the Cass Neary novels are about any one thing, they're about the eerie, uncomfortable intersections of art and death ... Hand is an extraordinary writer with a strong voice and a seemingly infinite supply of well-observed, macabre details ... Hard Light threads together a lot of images and ideas to create a memorable experience. The plot is unruly and sometimes hard to follow, but it's propulsive and oddly secondary to Hand's themes and scenes.