Beautifully written short(ish) thrillers

The Third Man and The Fallen Idol - Graham Greene

This book contains two of Graham Greene's short(ish) stories that were made into films. The first is set in post-war Vienna occupied by Britain, the US, France and Russia. It is a satisfying thriller, although the surprise twist wasn't so surprising, most of the interest (both drama and humour) comes from the conflicted Rollo Martins. Although it was written simply as a stepping stone towards a screenplay, there is some wonderful imagery.

"... bowing her head against the wind, a dark question mark on the snow." How gorgeous is that?

There are a number of humorous moments, revolving around a case of mistaken identity (in a rather Shakespearean farce) and in the interactions between the military police of the four powers.

" American chivalry is always, it seems to me, carefully canalized - one still awaits the American saint who will kiss a leper's sores."

Of the two stories I preferred the second - The Fallen Idol - told from the perspective of a young boy who is left in the care of two servants (married to each other), one of whom the boy loves and the other he hates. He is caught in the middle of an intrigue and feels crushed by the secrets he's asked to keep.

My favourite passages are -

"[S]he was darkness when the night-light went out in a draught; she was the frozen blocks of earth he had seen one winter in a graveyard when someone said, 'They need an electric drill'; she was the flowers gone bad and smelling in the little closet at Penstanley. There was nothing to laugh about. You had to endure her when she was there and forget about her quickly when she was away,"

"There had been things between them, but he laid them low, as a retreating army cuts the wires, destroys the bridges."

It's always a pleasure to read effective prose, and the second story also provides plenty of tension.