‘Brighton Rock’ by Graham Greene

My Review (5 stars out of 5)

In pre-war Brighton, a gang war propels seventeen-year-old Pinkie to lead his clan in a bid to take over from rival gangster Colleoni. Having killed a man for betraying the gang, Pinkie is unaware his victim had already made contact with Ida, a bright and bubbly woman, who, suspecting foul play when the man turns up dead, determines to find out the truth.

If I’d never read any Graham Greene novels before, this book might have put me off. Compared to the likes of Our Man in Havana and The Third Man, Brighton Rock is a dark and depressing read, without the lightness of touch and humour that I love about some of Greene’s other work. Having said that, the character of Pinkie is captivating and his struggle to gain the upper hand in the Brighton gang wars is ingeniously hampered by his inner battle with Catholic morality. Pinkie’s difficulty with women adds another layer of challenges for him, along with a belief that marrying Rose, a young waitress who holds information that could convict him of murder, will prevent her from giving evidence. However, other gang members contribute to Pinkie’s increasingly precarious situation, leading him to commit further crimes in order to keep himself out of jail.

Occasionally difficult to read, and probably not the best book to choose as a starting point if you’ve never read this author’s work before, Brighton Rock is nevertheless a fascinating portrait of a pre-war seaside town and its seedy underbelly.

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