Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Girl in Green, by Derek B. Miller

Staff review by Chris Saliba

Derek B. Miller's second novel is a gripping thriller, based on a lot of personal experience of Middle Eastern politics. 

Derek B. Miller is an American writer and an expert on Middle Eastern politics. He has a PhD in international relations and is a senior fellow with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. He is also well travelled, having lived in Israel, Hungary, Switzerland and Norway. His first novel, Norwegian by Night, was a huge smash in 2013. The Girl in Green is his second novel and it centres heavily around current Iraqi and Syrian politics.

When veteran soldier of the first Iraq war, Arwood Hobbes, sees a news report of a mortar attack in Kurdistan, almost killing a girl in a green dress, memories comes flooding back. Whilst fighting in the 1991 Iraq war, Hobbes had tried to save another girl in a green dress. She had died in his arms, leaving him severely traumatised.

It is now 2013. Determined to find the girl in the green dress he has seen reported on television, Hobbes drags his old friend, British journalist Thomas Benton, back to Iraq with him. But things only go from bad to worse when the two men run into the murderous Islamic State, or ISIL.

There is much to enjoy in Derek B. Miller’s The Girl in Green. It’s written as a tightly plotted thriller, but also has the advantage of exceptional research and first hand knowledge of the Middle East (Miller has travelled extensively in the region). The texture of the novel - sights, smells, descriptions of landscape - has a very authentic feel. Some of the details are quite quirky and unexpected, like when there’s a food drop from helicopters of frozen chicken and it’s splattered everywhere, or the cultural problems involved in American soldiers giving gifts to the locals.

It should also be mentioned that the dialogue is realistic, often funny, and the characters varied and well drawn, especially the weary senior aid worker, Marta Strom. The novel makes you sympathetic for the people who work on the ground trying to help refugees and victims of violence and terror. Miller also skilfully portrays Iraqi and Kurdish locals and the poor communication skills of the Americans.

If you’re after a thriller that’s a genuine page turner, but is also a fascinating look at the Iraq and Syrian wars from someone with first hand knowledge and contacts in the field, then The Girl in Green will both inform and entertain.

The Girl in Green, by Derek B. Miller. Published by Scribe. ISBN: 9781925106954  RRP: $32.99

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