the-third-manMany thanks Radio 4: you’ve turned me back on to Graham Greene.

I’ve been steering clear of Greene for donkey’s years after a bad experience with The Power and the Glory when I was in my teens.

However, listening to a late night Book at Bedtime serialisation of his 1951 novella, The Third Man, prompted me to give him another go.

Set in the dog days after the end of the Second World War, the book is based on the screenplay, which Greene also wrote, of the 1949 film noir of the same name.

Rollo Martins (Holly in the film), a 35-year-old hack writer, is badly in need of a holiday when old school-chum Harry Lime invites him to Vienna.

But when he gets there, Rollo finds Harry has died in a car accident.

Or has he?

Harry, it seems, was under investigation for racketeering and police suspect he has faked his own death.

Thrilling search

Rollo is determined to clear Harry’s name and begins an investigation of his own.

His thrilling search, through a gloomy, war-divided Vienna, ends with a shoot out in the city’s sewers where Rollo finally finds out the truth about his friend.

As a thriller, it’s a thin tale but the writing is tight and compelling and vividly evokes the burgeoning tensions of the Cold War.

However, it is as a psychological drama that The Third Man works best as the reader shares Rollo’s growing realisation that the friend he once hero-worshipped has become compromised by greed and self-deceit.

Right: now to give The Power and the Glory a second chance.

Review by Sue Featherstone.

Available to buy on Amazon.