Saturday, 20 January 2001

Duncan Kyle: Green River High (1979)

Edition: Collins, 1980
Review number: 724

The first chapter of this novel leads the reader to think that they are about to read something quite unique. George Hawke Tunnicliffe, an ex-soldier, is wounded as he prevents a bank robbery, and his sight is endangered. A thriller with a blind central character would be extremely interesting, if difficult to pull off.

Green River High is not as original as to attempt this feat. Tunnicliffe's stay in hospital and the publicity surrounding his foiling of the robbery combine to form a useful plot device to draw him to people's attention and make him easy to find. His father had disappeared just after the war, and two people who know something about this contact him - a man who helped him fill a plane with gold and rubies, and a woman who nursed him after his plane crashed in the remote, virtually inaccessible jungle of the highlands of Borneo.

This woman, Charity Franklin, is the most original feature of this thriller. She is a retired missionary nurse, who gained the friendship of several Dyak communities in Borneo before the Japanese invasion forced her into hiding. Now returned to England, she is a tough sixty year old, whose idea of a relaxing Christmas Eve is to do the Three Peaks walk, which she does every year.

Though there is nothing particularly unusual in the story of their journey to Borneo and through the jungle to the wrecked plane, it is well written and the character of Franklin adds interest.

I'm not sure what the reasoning is behind the title; it seems to bear no relevance to the themes of the novel.

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