Arthur Rowe has just got out of prison having served time for the mercy killing of his very ill wife and now living in London, mid-way through the blitz. A trip to the local fete is a welcome change from the recent trauma in his life and he wanders round the stalls. He has a go at guessing the weight of the cake, before entering a fortune tellers tent. She tells him what the correct weight of the cake is, so he enters a second time and wins it. Leaving the fete with the cake, the organisers try to stop him leaving with it, saying there has been a mistake. He refuses and takes the cake home.
So begins the most traumatic phase in Rowe’s life. The cake contains something that certain people really want back and they are prepared to go to almost any length to hunt him down and retrieve it. Even in his fragile mental state, he realises what is going on and he starts to discover just who is hunting him. Slowly he discovers more of the sinister conspiracy but he can’t go to the police as he is not totally sure of the facts or who is behind it.
Greene has put you in the character of Rowe, revealing limited details as the book unfolds and his position gets more and more perilous. It is a sparsely written book with a clever but bewildering plot. The tension from the war and the situation he finds himself in add to the drama too. I don’t think that I can count it as one of my favourites of his though, as it was a bit too convoluted, but I’d like to see the film version. 2.5 stars overall.