My 12 in 12 Challenge – February – Reading around the World – Book 13

The extra day we have won in February has enabled me to squeeze in an extra book for this month’s 12 in 12 Challenge. That thirteenth book is The Third Man by Graham Greene which I listened to on audio. It isn’t a long book and I cannot now remember why I bought it although I was interested in reading more of this author’s work after I finished Our Man In Havana.

The novel is set in Austria, specifically Vienna, directly after the last war when the country is still occupied by the Allied powers. Vienna is split into four zones and the black market is rife. Rollo Martins is a writer of pulp fiction who is invited to the city by his school friend Harry Lime only to arrive in time to attend his funeral. Martins becomes convinced that Harry has been murdered and tries to find out what has happened. His investigation results in the death of several people and brings to light a racket which is particularly unpleasant.

This is an exquisitely crafted novel. There is not a word wasted as the author builds up the atmosphere and tension. He describes beautifully the theatre dressing room, the empty streets, the scene outside a murder and the gloriously funny literary talk that Martins gives by mistake. We are not quite sure who to believe at any moment and things we think we know turn out to be wrong. In the end Martins is faced with disillusionment and betrayal and realises that not everyone sees the world the way that he does – it is an unpleasant awakening.

I was captivated by this book. Although there is a very famous film, with a haunting theme tune, I actually haven’t seen it so I didn’t know what to expect. I would also mention that the narration by Martin Jarvis really adds to the story. Highly recommended.