A short and unusual novel about a sinister figure, with some of the trappings of an ex Nazi though this background is never stated. This figure, Dr Fischer, hosts weird parties where he mocks his guests but they keep coming back because he gives them very, very expensive gifts.

It is really a meditation on the powerful hold that material greed can exert on people. Some of the plot developments are too heavily telegraphed in advance – you just know that the narrator’s wife is going to die a ski accident.

A bagatelle, really, but a decent diversion for a wet afternoon. And the Greene style – dark, always hinting at despair and unpleasant undercurrents – is a constant source of pleasure.

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