#FridayReads 2021-02-05 ‘The Secret Of Chimneys’ and ‘The Third Man’

This week, I’m reading two short books selected by the ‘Appointment With Agatha’ group on GoodReads. The first is an early Agatha Christie thriller. The second is a novella that Graham Greene didn’t intend to have published.

The Appointment With Agatha group reads the Christie books in the order that they were published and then selects a ‘side read’ broadly related to the theme of the Christie book. If you’re an Agatha Christie fan and you’d like to read along with us, you’re welcome to join ‘Appointment With Agatha’.

I don’t expect either of this week’s books to blow me away but I’m curious about both of them and I enjoy group reads where I get to see what other people think about the same books that I’m reading.

‘The Secret Of Chimneys’ by Agatha Christie (1925)

‘The Secret Of Chimneys’ is entirely new to me, which, given how often Christie’s novels are made into TV series and films, probably says something about the novel’s popularity. Still, I’ve enjoyed the freshness and energy of Christie’s early thrillers so far. It’s nice to read something not dominated by either Poirot or Marple. I’ve also enjoyed the picture they’ve given me of the lives of the privileged in 1920s England.

One thing that raises my expectations is that this is the first Superintendent Battle book. I’ve already read the fifth and last Superintendent Battle book, ‘Towards Zero’ and I thought it was modern, innovative and people-focused and that Superintendent Battle felt like a real person in a way that, to me, Poirot does not.

I’m hoping for a fun, fast read, a decent mystery and a good showing from Battle.

‘The Third Man’ by Graham Greene (1949)

I was quite snobby about which Graham Greene books I read back when he was new to me, in the late Seventies. I skipped the books that he referred to as his ‘Entertainments’ and went straight for the meaty stuff: ‘The Power And The Glory’ and ‘The Quiet American’. I was raised as a Catholic and was just on the brink of choosing Atheism when I read them, which probably made them more powerful for me as they have a very Catholic mindset.

The only ‘Entertainment’ I read was ‘Travels With My Aunt’, which felt quite light by comparison. I recently listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Tim Pigott-Smith. I enjoyed listening to him a but I found the book a bit patchy and slightly disappointing. The first part was quite funny but Greene couldn’t let go of his sense of sin, which I felt rather contaminated what could have been a liberating book,

My expectations of ‘The Third Man’ are fairly low. I see it as a preliminary sketch, made in isolation, in preparation for the collaborative creative effort of making what was to become a good movie. In effect, it’s a first-pass storyboard.

I’m interested to see what got added by others and by Greene himself, when he moved from words on a page to all the things that make the film memorable.

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