Benjamin Stevenson: Greenlight


Sleuths these days, with the exception of Inspector Barnard from Midsomer Murders, have to be tortured souls. I’m used to broken marriages, lost loves, drug and alcohol problems, dodgy personal hygiene/housekeeping/finances – but this is the first time I’ve met a male sleuth with an eating disorder.  To do him credit, Benjamin Stevenson does a pretty good job of working the theme in; the guilt and shame behind Jack’s illness give him a good feel for guilt and shame, or the lack of it, in others.

Jack’s true crime documentary has grabbed the public with the story of Curtis Wade, in jail for the murder of Eliza Dacey. The documentary is showing up the staggering incompetence of the police investigation and the fact that there’s no solid evidence – in fact this is a weak point in the plot, as it’s impossible to believe that Curtis would ever have been convicted. But just before the final episode Jack finds some new evidence that he thinks incriminates Curtis after all.

Jack’s team had spent seven weeks and hundreds of thousands of dollars on an innocence narrative. It didn’t really matter if it was the truth or not. It was just a TV show….

His whole career depended on this…. He had so much more to lose than she did (210-2).

Jack keeps the evidence quiet, Curtis gets a retrial and is acquitted.  And then there’s another horribly similar murder. Is Jack responsible for freeing a killer?

There are holes in the plot and unanswered questions that nagged at me as I read and even more so when I finished.  And Jack is not an appealing character. He’s quite a heavy presence. But it’s a first novel, Benjamin Stevenson writes well, the true crime documentary angle is interesting, and the story cracks on at a great pace, with many twists and red herrings. It kept me guessing to the very end.

9 thoughts on “Benjamin Stevenson: Greenlight

  1. I think a friend of mine would like this. She is a voracious reader of crime, always looking for new writers and premises to devour, and the true crime angle would certainly appeal. I’ll pass your recommendation along.

  2. It is interesting that the protagonist of a crime novel is expected to be flawed – a tarnished knight – though I wouldn’t necessarily refer to them as tortured souls. What about Reg Wexford, Adam Dalgliesh and Thomas Lynley? And what about the women? Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone lives on junk food. Does that count? Elizabeth George’s Barbara Havers smokes too much. Agatha Christie – does she have a fatal flaw?

    1. No, the tortured soul motif seems to be a relatively modern one, maybe in line with the increasingly complicated psychological approach. In the good old days (Agatha) you just murdered someone for money, jealousy, or to keep something secret. That’s why Miss Marple is so successful – being a conventional woman herself she understands the motivations of conventionally nasty people.
      You are much better read than I am – can’t comment on Kinsey Milhone or Barbara Havers.

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