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State's Evidence [Hardcover]

Stephen Greenleaf
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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3.0 out of 5 stars An average Tanner, based upon the "Evidence" Sept. 20 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Steephen Greeleaf's John Marshall Tanner private eye series is not quite as good as the best of the genre, though some of the stories are of high quality. "State's Evidence," is not among the better ones. The convoluted plot has Tanner spending time investigating a woman's disappearance in the sleazy Bay town of El Gordo on behalf of the local district attorney. The woman is a witness against the town's leading mob figure. The story has a good level of violence, and takes plenty of twists and turns, but unfortunately becomes a bit too complex for its own good. Tanner makes a good P.I. He's fearless, tough talking, lonely and just a touch cynical. He's just not given first rate material to work with during this particular outing. If you are new to the Tanner series, I'd recommend "Grave Erros," or "Past Tense" instead.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard-boiled, with heart Sept. 8 2008
By avoraciousreader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I just read Brian D. Rubendall's review and have to write a quick counter-review. I'm in the middle of a project to re-read the entire John Marshall Tanner series, started with the later ones trying to find a particular line of JMT's and then began at the beginning, and this the peak so far. And I've recently read both of the ones recommended by the previous reviewer as alternates. "Past Tense" is also excellent, but depends too much on the series' past history, and is too much a turning point in the series, to really recommend as a starting point. I would, however, recommend the neophyte begin with "Grave Errors," not because it is superior to "State's Evidence" (this is #3 in the series) but just because one really should see the development of the lead character, the cast, and the author in proper order, in spite of the writing being a bit ragged, stretching a bit too much for effect, in the freshman venture.

Admittedly the plot in "State's Evidence" is complex, and there were one or two points where I had to pause and think "now wait a minute, just who is this again?" as clues lead us madcap from one setting or character to another. But as Tanner is led from clue to hint to revelation, it's not really that hard to follow along, although we must remain as bemused and puzzled as the PI himself, since everybody ... everybody ... is lying to him. I felt it all fell together rather well in the end. Indeed, the revelations near the end made some of the more bizarre elements from early on make sense, fall into place.

What really makes the book ... and the series ... though is Greenleaf's writing, Tanner's snappy, cynical first person narrative. In "Grave Errors" the voice was a little too obviously the author's, not the character's, but by "State's Evidence" there seems to be no difference between the two. Sometimes it is sharp and precise, with a twist -- "Tolson would be doing what all DA's do, deciding who to prosecute and who not to, what charge to file, what plea to accept, ..., dispensing more justice in a day than anyone else in the county would dish out in a month." (p. 6) And Greenleaf/Tanner's liberal inclinations (see also the penultimate novel, "Strawberry Sunday") are beginning to blossom, e.g. "She shook her head wearily, a classic victim of poverty's cycle, a descendant of the proud but hapless occupants of Walker Evans's photos and Erskine caldwell's books." (p. 133)

There is a large cast of memorable characters, but outstanding are the two boys central to the plot, fully realized, realistic and intriguingly contrasting, one sweetly resilient the other maybe a monster in the making.

I'm not sure what the previosu reviewer would consider "the best of the genre" to which he contrasts Greenleaf's books, but I don't think I've read better. He's certainly up there with Matt Scudder, and has a serious core lacking in the Spenser books. But hey, who really cares which one is a smidgen better than the other ... we've got them all, which is all to the good.
3.0 out of 5 stars A dip in the series Jan. 2 2011
By Peter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Stephen Greenleaf is one of my favourite authors, he is the closest thing to Ross MacDonald out there, he is a writer with the ability to write passages of detective fiction that make you stand back and marvel at the skills of the novelist but State's Evidence was a dip in the quality of the series in my opinion. His first two books - Grave Error and Death Bed - were sensational, near perfect detective fiction but State's Evidence while very good, sees a dip in the quality of the work.

There is some unnecessary swearing throughout, the plotting is a bit difficult to understand at times (maybe too convoluted? Too many twists?) and (since this is my second time reading the book, I have read the whole series, am now re-reading it all again), I feel that this was the point that Greenleaf took a downward path in the quality of his work. From memory, the next Tanner book - Fatal Obsession - was ordinary as well, but Greenleaf does redeem himself in the later books.

This is the traditional gumshoe detective novel, a writer who will take you to the seamy side of the family drama and lay bare the hypocrises. There are the secrets of the past laid bare in the family and you can be guaranteed that there will be murder involved.

The detective is John Marshall Tanner, a man who we know little about, but is prepared to take a case of a missing woman in the hope that he finds the woman and can solve the crime.

How good are the Tanner books? Ok, they are not to the level of Ross MacDonald's Archer series but then again, no detective books are. Tanner is a character with a good heart, he solves mysteries with skilful sleuthing and maintains an awareness of his place in the world.

As always, Greenleaf is recommmended, just be aware that if this is your first try at him, bear in mind that it is one of his lesser efforts.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An average Tanner, based upon the "Evidence" Sept. 20 2001
By Brian D. Rubendall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Steephen Greeleaf's John Marshall Tanner private eye series is not quite as good as the best of the genre, though some of the stories are of high quality. "State's Evidence," is not among the better ones. The convoluted plot has Tanner spending time investigating a woman's disappearance in the sleazy Bay town of El Gordo on behalf of the local district attorney. The woman is a witness against the town's leading mob figure. The story has a good level of violence, and takes plenty of twists and turns, but unfortunately becomes a bit too complex for its own good. Tanner makes a good P.I. He's fearless, tough talking, lonely and just a touch cynical. He's just not given first rate material to work with during this particular outing. If you are new to the Tanner series, I'd recommend "Grave Erros," or "Past Tense" instead.
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