The Ministry of Fear

The Ministry of Fear - Alan Furst, Graham Greene

‘In that case,’ Rowe said, ‘I keep the cake because you see I guessed three pounds five the first time. Here is a pound for the cause. Good evening.’

He’d really taken them by surprise this time; they were wordless, they didn’t even thank him for the note. He looked back from the pavement and saw the group from the cake-stall surge forward to join the rest, and he waved his hand. A poster on the railings said: ‘The Comforts for Mothers of the Free Nations Fund. A fête will be held . . . under the patronage of royalty . . .’


So begins Arthur Rowe's incredible story in which a mix up at a charity fete alters Arthur's life forever and throws him into the midst of espionage, politics, and murder.  


The Ministry of Fear is Greene's 11th novel, yet, to me it represents the first of the series of books that forms the basis of my appreciation of his canon of work. Written in 1943, Greene combines elements of mystery and espionage and spices them up with gritty noir and anxieties lived out by the characters against the back-drop of war time London, where trust is mandatory but seldom warranted.


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"A phrase of Johns’ came back to mind about a Ministry of Fear. He felt now that he had joined its permanent staff. But it wasn’t the small Ministry to which Johns had referred, with limited aims like winning a war or changing a constitution. It was a Ministry as large as life to which all who loved belonged. If one loved one feared."