Green for Danger, by Christianna Brand

As if I needed proof of what I wrote yesterday about how readers can react to the same book in different ways, I now have Green for Danger, by Christianna Brand, as an exhibit for my case. I first heard about this novel from Nicola Upson’s “Top 10 Golden Age Detective Novels” in The Guardian. I should have known not to trust that list. Half of the list wasn’t even published during the Golden Age. I picked the novel from the list because it was published during the right time period and because I was intrigued by the premise: a man dies during surgery, murdered, during the middle of the Blitz. Sadly, I ended up disliking Green for Danger, for a number of reasons. There are so many other, better books that Upson could have put on her list.

Green for Danger has a dizzying cast of nurses and doctors. The perspective shifts from character to character within each chapter, to give us a bit more clues about what might have happened to the patient on the operating table on that fateful day—and to show several of the characters working themselves into a tizzy as they play detective, try to cover things up, and carry on their flirtations and affairs with each other. I couldn’t identify with any of the characters. Even the detective, who we might expect to bond with as the ostensible hero of any mystery, in this book turned out to be so much of a jerk that I kind of hated him by the end of the novel. The setting, which I was most interested in, fell into the background as the characters rushed to and fro. The overall impression I take away from this book is confusion.

Because Green for Danger was originally published in 1944, I was prepared to make allowances for jokes, slang, and other ideas that wouldn’t fly now. There are brief racist and sexist comments in this novel, but I was so annoyed by the silted dialogue and over-the-top shenanigans of the suspects that seriously considered abandoning the book. I’m honestly not sure why I finished the book. Perhaps I was just optimistic enough to hope that I would at least get a good mystery and detective. I got some good twists at the end, but the bad in this novel far outweighs the good.

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