All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Either Side Of Midnight by Benjamin Stevenson

on September 28, 2020

Either Side Of Midnight 
Benjamin Stevenson
Penguin Random House AUS
2020, 336p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

An electrifying thriller with a mind-bending premise: One million viewers witness a popular TV presenter commit suicide live on air – yet his twin brother is convinced it was murder.

How can it be murder when the victim pulled the trigger?

At 9.01 pm, TV presenter Sam Midford delivers the monologue for his popular current affairs show Mr Midnight. He seems nervous and the crew are convinced he’s about to propose to his girlfriend live on air.

Instead, he pulls out a gun and shoots himself in the head.

Sam’s grief-stricken brother Harry is convinced his brother was murdered. But how can that be, when one million viewers witnessed Sam pull the trigger?

Only Jack Quick, a disgraced television producer in the last days of a prison sentence, is desperate enough to take Harry’s money to investigate.

But as Jack starts digging, he finds a mystery more complex than he first assumed. And if he’s not careful, he’ll find out first-hand that there’s more than one way to kill someone . . .

I have to admit, it took me about 35p to realise that this is actually a follow on from Greenlight, Benjamin Stevenson’s novel from 2018. In my defence, reading that was some 450 books ago but when Jack was released from jail, I suddenly remembered why he was there in the first place.

Before his release, Jack is visited by Harry Midford, twin of Sam Midford, a television presenter who killed himself live on air in front of thousands of viewers. Harry is convinced that there is more to this than a simple, if gruesomely public suicide and he knows that Jack might just be one of the few people out there who would believe in something this unusual. Jack has made a name for himself with his podcast digging into cold cases, seeing things that other people miss. And even though Jack thinks that it was most likely just a suicide, Harry is offering money and money is something Jack needs quite a bit of. So he agrees to look into it, stipulating that he still gets paid even if his investigation turns up nothing suspicious.

I found the idea of this a good hook – a presenter doing something so graphic live on air. The production staff expected him to propose to his girlfriend, not pull out a gun and shoot himself. There seems to be little motivation for such an act, although as Harry digs deeper, he discovers that ‘Mr Midnight’ had his demons. Harry is full of half truths and occasionally withheld information as he seeks to find an answer to the question of what his brother was thinking, why he did it and whether or not there was an outside influence.

This book hinges a lot on the power of words. As we all know, words can be incredibly damaging, even more so sometimes, than a physical injury. The impact left by words can linger, fester and become something that cannot be ignored. There have been several real life cases where people have used communication devices or social media as a way of bullying or coercing or encouraging someone into doing something that they perhaps, didn’t want to do or were confused about and needed help, rather than be told to go ahead and do it. We’re all taught as kids, sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me however it’s obvious pretty much right away that isn’t true. And when I went to school, people had to bully you to your face but with the rise of social media, that’s no longer necessary. People can use many different ways and means to intimidate, bully and even coerce people. And if that was the case here, then the immediate question would be why? And what was so powerful that it was able to be used as a weapon against Sam?

The further I got into this, the more I remembered about Jack – the situation with his brother, his relationship with his father and his mental illness. Although this probably could be read stand alone, I think it’s best read after Greenlight to understand Jack’s relationship with Liam, with his father, with guilt, with survival, with himself, with other things as well. In this book, Jack’s father wants Jack’s help to make a very difficult decision. Jack’s first reaction to it is a knee-jerk – he won’t consider it, won’t hear of it, uses strong language for what he thinks it is. And I can understand that, in a way. Jack and his father have spent a very long time in a kind of limbo and I think Jack’s father is tired. He wants to be in a position where they can maybe move on and the way things are but Jack isn’t ready yet and even raising the question has the potential to really set him back. Jack has a lot of emotional baggage but he has an excellent head for investigation and sniffing out things that don’t add up. Even though he goes into this believing that there’s probably nothing really sinister going on and Harry just doesn’t want to believe his brother chose to do what he did, it doesn’t take long for him to realise that there are some things that aren’t adding up.

I enjoyed this but I did feel like it dragged a bit in the beginning and then felt quite rushed at the end and perhaps some of that rushed feeling at the end is because of Jack’s troubled thoughts, which give the narrative a truncated, disjointed sort of feeling. I think a lot of this hinged on some big reveals and they didn’t really have the impact on me that I would’ve liked. I enjoyed Jack, he brings a lot to the story and he carries it well but I found myself growing less and less interested in what happened to Sam and why he did what he did, the further I got into the book. And when everything was revealed, I felt a bit so-so about it. However if Benjamin Stevenson writes another book with Jack, I would definitely read it because I’m invested in him and his family.


Book #189 of 2020


One response to “Review: Either Side Of Midnight by Benjamin Stevenson

  1. I packed this on the weekend so it will be awhile before I get to it.

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