I haven’t done a book review in months – I’ve read plenty of books, just got out of the habit of reviewing them!
Having never read a Graham Greene novel before I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I picked this up, but I did have the impression that it was a serious spy novel. Not so much, as it turns out.
The story focuses on Jim Wormold, a British expat living a quiet life in Havana with his daughter. He has a shop selling vaccuum cleaners and is fairly content with his life, including regular meetings for daiquiries with his German friend Dr Hasselbacher. One day, however, his life is turned upside down when a British secret service agent tries, in somewhat unclear and bumbling fashion, to recruit him to be their ‘man in Havana’.
Wormold tries to say no but Hasselbacher convinces him to take their money and send made up reports in exchange. Wormold gets sucked in to the lies, inventing other agents who pass him reports and creating imaginary military installations by drawing the internal workings of his vaccuum cleaners.
It’s the Cold War and London needs all the intelligence they can get on Cuba so they devour his reports urgently, and even send him more staff. Wormold has no idea how he’s going to keep his inventions secret but then, reality starts to mirror fiction in any event.
It’s a quick read at 220 pages and I felt it kept the humour light enough to not become too silly. I also liked that you do get a good sense of life in Havana from the book. Reading it has certainly made me more likely to read other Graham Greene novels in the future!