Cass Neary made her name in the 70s as a photographer embedded in the burgeoning punk movement in New York City. Her pictures of the musicians and the hangers-on, the infamous, the damned, and the dead, earned her a brief moment of fame. Thirty years later she is adrift, on her way down, and almost out when an old acquaintance sends her on a mercy gig to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine.
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As this riveting tour-de-force opens, the police already want to talk to Cass about a mysterious death she was involved with previously, but before they can bring her in, Cass accepts a job offer from overseas and hops on a plane. In Helsinki, she authenticates a series of disturbing but stunning images taken by a famous fashion photographer who has cut himself off from the violent Nordic music scene where he first made his reputation. Paid off by her shady employer, she buys a one-way ticket to Reykjavik, in search of a lover from her own dark past.
As the story opens, Cass arrives in London, where she's arranged to meet her long-lost lover, Quinn O'Boyle. When Quinn fails to show at their rendezvous point, Cass meets the eccentric couple Mallo and Morven Dunfries. When Mallo catches Cass rifling through his medicine cabinet in search of drugs, he threatens to turn her in to the authorities then puts her to work as a runner for his illegal goods. Cass makes a delivery to Poppy Teasel, a famous singer from long ago.