Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Human Factor by Graham Greene

I am almost ashamed to say that this is my first book by Graham Greene. A classic spy thriller in the same fashion as John Le CarrĂ©. The set-up is classic:  a small unit in MI6, a leak and a search for the traitor.

Our man, Maurice Castle, is close to retirement. His only post abroad was in South Africa some years back.  Now he is back in London. During his years in South Africa, a local girl was working as one of his sources. He fell in love and he managed, with some difficulty, to get her and her son out of there. They married and are living a quiet life in a suburb to London. Living exactly like everybody else in the street, not to stick out, always to hide their real business. Their whole life is an artificial one, but at least they have each other.

The leak has been connected to the African section where Castle works. He jokes about it with his colleague Davis, and they don't take it too seriously to start with.  Things are moving very slowly forwards. In parallel we follow Castle and Davis and several of these mysterious, secret men in typical British outfits, meeting at their clubs, seeming not to have any friends, and often, no family. The move around in a world of their own, not connected to the world around them. The situation takes a turn to the worst when one of the colleagues is found dead.

This is not an action filled book, but there is tension on every page. It is an amazing story in all its simplicity, but so well told that you are turning the pages to see how it ends. The spy world is a harsh world and there is no mercy for traitors. Or is there?

Graham Greene approaches his story with love and care and with very small means he shows us that not everything is ’black and white’ in the espionage world.  The story has so many layers, that in the end we ask ourselves what was wrong really? More can not be revealed without spoiling the story.

I have two more books on my shelves by Graham Greene; Our Man in Havanna and Travels With My Aunt. They are both supposed to be good, so I have something to look forward too.

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