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Greenies Paperback – July 24, 2014
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Andrew Hanson paces his low-key thriller with the rhythms of an everyman. Ben Martins cycles around London in athletic clothing and shares a messy flat with another single guy. He keeps plugging along in his job and trying to do the right thing, but he keeps falling prey to his own passions and indecision. He bumbles, and he eats beans on brown bread and nurses injuries received in the course of his not-so-heroic exploits. He finds a nice girl and keeps getting in his own way as he looks to the future with her. He feels like our kid brother who hasn’t quite gotten it together yet.
Detective Paskins, who hauls Ben in for questioning after recognizing his environmentalist shirt in surveillance images, has his own difficulties. He’s in therapy for his bad memories and cannot become a heroic investigator because the evidence is skimpy and the bureaucracy slow. In fact, Hanson could have made more of this somewhat thin character by perhaps making a comically hindered police station. The seeds of this development are already in the novel, and I found myself wanting more details about the mysterious but probably winsome Paskins. He seems an older version of Ben Martins, in a way.
Hanson opens many scenes with gorgeous descriptions of the everyday beauty of the city: “Blurry pinks, oranges and yellows illuminated the silhouettes of buildings. The world span on, oblivious to those who were tugging on it to change course. The small group of activists were the dark point in the centre of the galaxy.” Smaller details bring a smile of recognition: “Incense really was disgusting stuff. Ben couldn’t’ see how it promoted clarity of thought; it was a cloying, befuddling smell.” A stunning visual of the 2030 version of the London Eye comes at just the right moment in the novel, to ground us in our time and link us to their time.
With admirable skill, keeping us from knowing just where his own sympathies lie, Hanson presents a thriller we could actually stumble into ourselves, believable and compelling.
But for Ben Martins, events are just heating up. Free without being charged for murder, Ben moves on with his environmental activist group. But he soon finds that peaceful protest isn’t going to cut it… luckily there are others who share his beliefs and convictions, though one of them may be Boothby’s murderer.
I found nearly all of this book to be a smooth, engrossing read. Though environmental concerns of the present are woven thickly into the narrative, only the very beginning felt a bit heavy-handed on the green mission, but soon I was entangled in the lives of both Ben and Detective Paskins.
Characters are very strongly developed (though to be fair, I’m not English, so I can’t speak to the realism of the dialogue…none of it sounded cardboard or hackneyed), but the author really turned on the brights when it came to description and narrative. A lot of really nice imagery and slick vocabulary kept the pace of the book moving steadily.
As for the mystery itself, it was soon submerged in Ben’s dating life, the environmental actions going on through the advocate group, but just enough hung about to keep me wondering: which of the characters have we met did it? Was it Grant? Micky? Theo? David? One of the ladies? Clues, hints, red herrings and revelations were handled with care and a deft touch. As mentioned previous, the highlights on environmental disaster and climate change were clearly part of the book’s theme, though it remained a solid story focused on the characters. If there was one complaint, it was the overuse of a few ten dollar words… superfluity being the number one culprit. These weren’t enough to bring the book down, though.
Overall, my favorite was the escalation of the conflict for Ben. This kept the pages turning, well into the night when I had other things to do, and at the office when I needed to get back to work. Well played, Mr. Hanson.
The novel deals with climate change in an extremely interesting way. In terms of the plot itself, the story of Ben and the futuristic world he lives in is very engaging. There were some elements, however, such as characterization and pacing, that did not match the strength of the premise. More tightness in these elements would have been appreciated, but again, Greenies is a novel that still makes you think about what kind of world is being created for next generations.