Graham Green’s classic tale of a vacuum cleaner salesman who gets drawn into a world of secrets and espionage through the simple need to earn a little extra cash. All he is required to do is file the occasional report and engage the services of a few locals as fellow agents. But Wormold doesn’t want the annoyance of carrying out real security work so instead conjures up a series of bogus reports. However, when his stories begin to come true, things become dangerous.
I’ve read several Graham Greene novels over the years, including ‘The Third Man’, ‘The End of the Affair’ and ‘Monsignor Quixote’, but this one is very different. Greene’s writing is sharp and witty and at times quite hilarious. His hapless hero manages to get himself into all sorts of trouble and easily engages the reader with his unfortunate efforts to improve his lot in a foreign country.
Greene had worked for MI6 in the early nineteen forties and supposedly based the character of Wormold on a real spy who invented a whole ring of agents. Though there is some racist language in the book (from the opening paragraph, in fact) which may be offensive to some readers, as with similar novels I think it reflects the language of the times. In any case, I was thoroughly drawn in by plot and particularly enjoyed the banter between Wormold and Dr Hasselbacher and the spiralling web of lies that engulf the pair as Wormold endeavours to do the right thing.
A totally absorbing read that had me hooked from the start.
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