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The Girl in Green


The Girl in Green

THE GIRL IN GREEN is not a relative, distant or otherwise, of the spate of mystery and suspense/thriller novels that utilize “girl” in the title to attract readers. Derek B. Miller’s darkly tinged espionage novel is about a girl in green in a very dangerous, deadly and insane place, a tale that spans decades and examines the true meaning of nobility, the one that never really changes, time and place notwithstanding.

Miller’s follow-up effort to his masterful NORWEGIAN AT NIGHT is quite different from that classic work, though no less formidable. It begins in 1991 at the Kuwait-Iraq border with a fateful meeting. Thomas Benton is a seasoned forty-something British war reporter who encounters a lone American Army private named Arwood Hobbes. Both men are obsessed in different ways: Benton wants to discover the truth that lurks behind everything he beholds, while Hobbes is infused with either bravery, insanity, or equal parts of both. Each man finds their mettle challenged when they are unable to come to the aid of a young girl in a green dress who is brutally and senselessly murdered in front of them. Their inability to do anything about it leaves them both stunned and haunted, even as they ultimately go their separate ways.

"This is a book you should read, with Miller’s wonderful and memorable prose not being the least of the reasons why."

Benton and Hobbes have no contact for over 20 years until Benton, still a reporter but now a seasoned citizen, receives an unexpected, frantic call from the middle-aged Hobbes, informing him that the girl they were unable to save appears, however inexplicably, to be alive. The apparent proof is in a contemporary video gone viral of yet another horror of war --- a different war, though not so you would know --- that shows what appears to be the same girl in dire danger. Hobbes, a force of nature, insists that Benton meet him there to complete the task that they were unable to do. It is insanity, from top to bottom. It is also, in Miller’s hands, totally believable that two so very different men would be so compelled. His prose style --- unexpectedly poetic in places, and laced with a dark, dry and aged humor --- carries this story up, over and around disbelief, while his understanding of the territory, both subject-wise and geographically, takes him to the finish line.

While we may have heard this story, told in different ways, on the nightly news, it perhaps has never been told so well. I was reminded of Joseph Conrad’s HEART OF DARKNESS, not so much because of any particular plot similarity between the novels but rather due to the exploration of the differences in culture that each book brings to the table. Make no mistake, though: THE GIRL IN GREEN has enough suspense for any three novels. You’ll be waiting for explosions long after the story ends.

The book does have the occasional hiccup, caused by Miller’s apparent readiness to lay blame exclusively in one corner. The failure to acknowledge the culpability of the United Nations (past and present) and the Obama administration (present) is puzzling at best. These omissions, though, are at least partially balanced by a point that is too often overlooked when dealing with matters Middle Eastern: the perception of time differs markedly between the East and the West. It sounds like a minor difference, but it affects everything.

Author D.W. Buffa has recently stated elsewhere that “(w)e live a permanent present.” Just so. In the Muslim world, however, as noted in THE GIRL IN GREEN, the past never goes away. That is demonstrated within these pages, not once, but several times, as the acts of the past influence the present, for better and worse. This is a book you should read, with Miller’s wonderful and memorable prose not being the least of the reasons why.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 6, 2017

The Girl in Green
by Derek B. Miller

  • Publication Date: January 16, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books
  • ISBN-10: 1328745503
  • ISBN-13: 9781328745507