cover image Benefit of the Doubt

Benefit of the Doubt

Neil Griffin. Forge, $25.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7653-3850-1

At the start of Griffin’s uneven debut, Harlan Lee, fresh out of a 17-year stint in a Wisconsin prison, murders the girlfriend of the prosecuting attorney who figured in his imprisonment—the first of many well-planned and often grisly acts of revenge. Harlan sets his sights on the small town of Newberg, Wis., the home of another potential revenge target, cop Ben Sawyer, who has his own haunting backstory. An ill-advised encounter with a fugitive in Oakland, Calif., resulted in Ben’s resignation and an ignominious return to Wisconsin. In Newberg, he’s an outsider, mistrusted by his fellow officers. Further complicating Ben’s life is an increasing estrangement from his wife and son. Things in Newberg are tense, and they just get more so as Harlan zeroes in on Ben. Griffin is at his best in presenting the culture of the contemporary police force—his previous career was in law enforcement—though the plot itself feels dated, like a 1950s muckraking thriller. Agent: Jill Marr, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (May)