Released: July 2019 (previously released as Greenlight in Australia in 2018)
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
A grim tale about the darker side of true-crime documentaries.
From the publisher:
Four years ago Eliza Dacey was brutally murdered.
Within hours, her killer was caught.
So reads the opening titles of Jack Quick’s new true-crime documentary. A skilled producer, Jack knows that the bigger the conspiracy, the higher the ratings. Curtis Wade, convicted of Eliza’s murder on circumstantial evidence and victim of a biased police force, is the perfect subject. Millions of viewers agree.
Just before the finale, Jack uncovers a minor detail that may prove Curtis guilty after all. Convinced it will ruin his show, Jack disposes of the evidence and delivers the finale unedited: proposing that Curtis is innocent.
But when Curtis is released, and a new victim is found bearing horrifying similarities to the original murder, Jack realizes that he may have helped a guilty man out of jail. And, as the only one who knows the real evidence of the case, he is the only one who can send him back.
Like many of you, I’ve watched Making a Murderer and other crime docu-series on Netflix. Their cultural impact is undeniable, but how many of us have really thought about the real-life impact of such popular series? While fun to watch and discuss with our friends, the shows aren’t totally impartial. Those featured in them aren’t just characters written in for their entertainment value, but are actual people. Lives, jobs, and communities are greatly affected by these series and the opinions viewers form from them.
She Lies in the Vines tackles this head on, taking place after a popular Australian docu-series ends up leading to the release of a man, Curtis Wade, who had been convicted of a vicious murder. When another similar murder occurs shortly after his release, Curtis’ small wine country town is once again thrown into the spotlight as his innocence is called into question.
Jack, the creator of the documentary series that freed Curtis, travels back to Australian wine country determined to uncover the truth and try to quiet the guilt that now plagues him. In his quest for ratings and fame, he never gave much thought to the devastating ramifications of his show. Watching him come to grips with this harsh reality was extremely thought provoking given how popular true-crime documentaries are now.
So as you can see, She Lies in the Vines had a fantastic premise. The only reason this isn’t rated higher is because the writing style didn’t really work for me. There were some really strong elements, ones I’m going to rave about in a moment, but ultimately after the first few explosive chapters I found this a struggle to finish.
In addition to the plot, the setting in rural Australian wine country was unique and compelling. I often felt transported there due to the author’s ability to thoroughly paint a picture. Whenever I’ve had Australian wine I haven’t given much thought to where it comes from but thanks to this book I have a much better appreciation for it.
One of the most commendable parts of this book is its depiction of eating disorders and the male victims who are often ignored. Jack’s struggle with bulimia was brutal and raw, highlighting that it is not just an affliction for women. It was hard to read at times, but I applaud the author for including it. It is most certainly not just women who suffer from eating disorders, however they’re the ones most often acknowledged and are the ones who are better able to get treatment. His disease came out full force once he realised that it’s not just a television show he made, but a living, breathing thing that destroyed the lives of so many people.
Despite having so much going for it, though, in the end the execution let it down. It was confusing and hard to follow at times and was often a bit of a slog to get through. This book was a lot longer than it needed to be because we spent way too much time in Jack’s head while he over analysed and broke down every thought process he had. When things were actually happening it was a much stronger book, but those scenes were unfortunately outnumbered by The Jack Show.
This is a solid three star book, one I would recommend for anyone who is a fan of series like Making a Murderer or The Staircase. It brings up a lot of important questions about the impact of these shows, questions I’m not sure many of us have pondered but really should. The writing style didn’t work for me, but it still has a lot going for it and for a summer beach read the premise and twists in She Lies in the Vines hit the mark.
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5 thoughts on “She Lies in the Vines by Benjamin Stevenson”
It sucks the execution wasn’t that great, because the idea behind this book is really good!
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Looking at reviews, it worked for other people so don’t let me turn you off! The premise alone is worth it.
Thanks for mentioning the eating disorders in men element. It’s so important, and something often overlooked.
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Yeah, absolutely. I’m glad it was highlighted in this book!