A Balance of Evil – Douglas Renwick


A combination of well researched recent history, romance and good old fashioned story telling” – Roland M Warner

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Featuring the murky world of secret services, forbidden love, tragic decisions and a plea of redemption, A Balance of Evil is set against a background of real events, a fact that some readers may find disturbing.

Gerald spends the last two years of his life trying to find a mystery woman who could be dead. This leads to him becoming embroiled in MI6, the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, as it struggles to meet the demands of a changing and uncertain world in which terrorism takes over as the major threat to our daily lives.

Gerald writes his story for Dan, a skiing friend, to be read only after his death. It reveals some intimate truths about their relationship, and some disturbing secrets about governments and their agents doing terrible things. Sometimes they have to in order to prevent a greater evil.  But when it involves a loved one, can it be justified? Can it be forgiven? Or does it call for revenge?

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This novel is an engaging, persuasive thriller with a new twist. The ‘doctrine of necessity’, which involves the legitimacy of a lesser evil to prevent a greater evil, runs through the novel. Using a background of the intelligence services and counter terrorism, it is well researched and builds character and plot development in a fast moving way. The well paced build up of tension keeps the reader on edge. It is a gripping, convincing and rewarding read.” – RobinPS


Jeremy StreetenAccording to his British passport, Douglas Renwick’s occupation for many years was ‘Government Service’.  This included spells in Libya, Malta, Cyprus, Ireland and Germany.  He also worked at the Ministry of Defence in London, the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe in Belgium, the Pentagon in Washington DC, and White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

He has spent time in East Berlin, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Argentina, Egypt, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.  He has jumped out of planes, swum across Valetta harbour, skied across the Alps and the Rockies, and been transferred by breeches buoy from one Royal Navy ship to another, at sea and under full steam.  He has been down a coal-mine in Yorkshire, a salt-mine in Poland and a nuclear bunker in Essex.

Now a grandfather, retired and living in Kent, U.K., time allows him to commit some of these stories to paper.  He prefers writing fiction on the grounds that it is safer.


“Ah!” he said.  “The Doctrine of Necessity!  It presents the greatest dilemma known to man.  To do wrong, in order to prevent a greater wrong, to commit a deadly sin to avoid a greater evil.  Or should I say, to do wrong, something which we know is definitely wrong, in the hope that it might prevent a greater evil.

“The easy way out, of course, would be to do nothing.  But it’s not the easy way out, because by doing nothing, you may be allowing that greater evil to happen; and you would be responsible for it.  It would not be easy to bear the weight – the guilt – of hundreds of thousands of deaths, perhaps, which you could have prevented.”

I understood what he was saying, but it hardly made me feel better.  “So how does an individual decide if the greater evil might or might not happen?  Surely, if the probability is low enough, there must be a point where the lesser evil is unjustified.”

“That’s it, Mr White.  That’s the dilemma.  History has given us a few guidelines, but they are sparse.  There was the famous case in 1884, Regina v. Dudley and Stephens, of four shipwrecked sailors who were cast adrift in a small boat without food.  In order to survive, the three strongest decided to eat the fourth, the 17-year-old cabin boy.”

“Eat him?  My God!”  It was Mrs Grey.  “The poor lad!”

Mr Black continued.  “At their trial, they pleaded it was necessary for their survival, and that the cabin boy would have died from natural causes anyway.

“The court ruled that cannibalising the boy was nut urgently necessary, as at any moment a ship could have sailed over the horizon to save them.  In fact, that’s what happened.  They ruled that two of the sailors, Dudley and Stephens, killed the boy intentionally and were therefore guilty of murder!”

“But if he ate the boy, that’s cannibalism!” said Mrs Grey.

“You’re right.  But under English law cannibalism alone is not a crime.  Murder is, of course, and Dudley and Stephens were convicted of murder and sentenced to be hanged.  Now, this is the interesting part.  Their sentence was later reduced to just six months in prison.  So while their defence of necessity failed in court, it was in fact acknowledged as valid by the reduction of the sentence.

“Three principles emerged from this case.  A, the action to prevent the greater evil must indeed be necessary – in other words, there is no alternative way of preventing it.  B, the greater evil must be imminent.  And C, the defence of necessity cannot be used in cases of murder.”

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“The story challenges you to recall real-life horrific acts / events that you will be used to thinking of as unjustifiable and imagine a context for them that would, in a purely logical (rather than subjective) sense, have made them justifiable. It is up to the reader whether they agree with the rationale, but the point is to make it believable and difficult to challenge, and Renwick does more than enough to let the reader suspend disbelief and enjoy the brilliant yarn that ensues!”Amazon customer