cover image The Girl in Green

The Girl in Green

Derek B. Miller. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-544-70625-5

Miller’s second novel (after Norwegian by Night) is a polished and powerful commentary on the effects of war on two men—an ambitious British journalist and a clueless American soldier who meet briefly in Iraq at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Private Arwood Hobbes and Brit reporter Thomas Benton witness the slaughter of Shiite civilians by the Iraqi army and cannot prevent the cold-blooded murder of a young girl in a green dress. The experience haunts both men for years, but 22 years later, in 2013, shocking news footage of an insurgent attack in Iraq reunites the two men in a desperate and risky gambit to save a girl in a green dress shown in the video. Middle-aged Hobbes is energized to right an old wrong, and old, slow Benton is reluctant to get involved. Amid the dangerous Syrian, Iraqi, and Kurdish refugee crisis in northern Iraq, Hobbes and Benton team up with a U.N. refugee officer, but the men are captured by ISIL terrorists, beginning a deadly cat and mouse game of torture, intimidation, and negotiation. Benton doesn’t understand Hobbes’s obsession with the girl in the video or the unique skills he’s gained since 1991. This is an excellent depiction of the complicated Iraq-Syria situation, especially the desperate plight of refugees and the West’s failure to provide peace or relief. Miller caps his stellar, electrifying story with a knockout ending. (Jan)