E. C. Diskin’s first novel, The Green Line, centers around Abigail Donovan, an attorney for a prestigious law firm in Chicago. The first chapter of the book finds Abby accidentally getting on a westward Green Line L train late one night, where she has a multitude of wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time experiences. Abigail is harassed and followed and ultimately discovers a murder scene. The events of this night turn Abby’s work and personal life upside down and lead to the discovery of corruption within the Chicago Police Department.
The novel is split into three close third-person perspectives: undercover cop Marcus, corrupt Trip, and Abby. Abby’s point of view has the most confident writing, perhaps because Diskin is a former Chicago attorney herself. The portions of the book where Abby is passionate about investigating and discussing law are the most intriguing. The writing is believable and strong. Abby’s and Marcus’s interactions and conversations are fluid, and there is chemistry between the characters as they uncover more information. Trip’s perspective, on the other hand, seems more distant and less believable.
Police corruption, abuse of power, and violence are relevant and notable issues in Chicago, and Diskin’s exploration of these issues is interesting. However, the story feels like a series of conveniently placed events, which at times do not seem organic to the story. The fact that Abby accidentally got on a westward Green Line train when she was supposed to get on a northbound Brown Line seems unbelievable for a person of her intelligence and awareness. Abigail is flawed, but she’s not stupid. She asks questions, and she’s insightful about what happens around her. It feels forced to have such a story unfold from the aftermath of a silly mistake.
There are also parts of the book, mostly in the beginning and mostly in Abby’s perspective, which feel like the author plays too heavily on stereotypes. Abby’s descriptions of people are naïve and cliché. For instance, she describes two men on the Green Line in the first couple of pages: “Two guys, maybe twenty, covered in tattoos, gold chains, and baggy clothes, sat across the aisle behind her. Thugs.” There are many parts of the book where what characters are wearing is significant to Abby, which seems necessary for some scenes (e.g., recalling what and who she saw during the night of the murder) and unnecessary for others (e.g., Abby describing Marcus’s undercover clothing as his “gang look” many pages after the reader already knows he’s undercover). Descriptions and scenes like these put the story at a distance, and make it all too easy for the reader to become distracted from the story and more focused on the writing.
That said, the reader is pulled through the story at a startling pace, which creates tension and curiosity. The Green Line is full of events, turns, and discoveries. The plot has a bustling feel to it, and clues and details are well placed. For readers who enjoy following characters step by step as they uncover the mystery, this will be a book that keeps their attention. Crime thriller enthusiasts who like a dash of romance in their mysteries also will enjoy this book. Abby’s love life plays a significant role in the story, and anxiety and heartbreak drive her to make choices that propel the story. There are strong and weak parts to this book, but no novel is perfect. Diskin does an admirable job portraying various characters, and she gives her readers an ending that will leave their thriller thirst quenched and satisfied.
November 2013, Amazon Publishing/Thomas & Mercer
$14.95 paperback, 320 pages
—Reviewed by Lyndsie Manusos