Photographer Cass Neary is desperate to get home, and she's already lost her camera -- like losing a limb. Now her only chance is to cash in on a deal that a friend is about to cut for a legendary illuminated manuscript: "The Book of Lamps and Banners". Rumored to have been rescued from the Library at Alexandria, the Book is said to contain ancient esoteric knowledge, even an otherworldly power.
... a hair-raising, mind-bending trip ... Hand does not shy away from bleak, unlikable characters ... Hand’s language tightens when Cass spies a detail nobody else notices, but we feel the dead weight of her hangovers and the cranked-up jangle of her nerves. It’s unsettling but impossible to look away as elements line up to set a grim climax in motion ... Does this sound impossibly dark? It is! It’s also exquisitely suspenseful, and the paranoia suffusing the story is very much of our present moment. The idea that any single source can make sense of everything happening around us is as alluring as it is dangerous. Half of the mystery in The Book of Lamps and Banners is wondering whether Cass Neary will save us or take us down with her.
Elizabeth Hand’s Cass Neary series began in 2008 with Generation Loss, a startling and addictive novel that introduced a protagonist fueled by drugs and post-punk irreverence. The series continues with the fourth Cass Neary novel, The Book of Lamps and Banners ... Cass Neary is a remarkable heroine. As with Sherlock Holmes, her power lies in the act of seeing what ordinary people cannot, only where Holmes brings clues to light, Neary is content to linger in the dark. Her eye catches the liminal spaces between clarity and shadow so well I found myself rereading passages for the beauty of her way of seeing ... The darkness lingering in Cass’s psyche is the true mystery of this series. The question isn’t ever if Cass will solve the crime, but if she can overcome her own demons.
Hand fills her fourth novel in this series with many heartfelt scenes that speak to Cass’ character. A stroll down a London alley filled with independent bookstores is tailor-made for bibliophiles ... Hand’s affinity for brisk plotting keeps The Book of Lamps and Banners churning with twists and surprises leading to a finale that gives hope to Cass’ future.