Odd Man Out

F. L. Green
AFTER ten years of Fascist spies and counterspies, it comes as a shock to find a psychological thriller revolving around something less than a plot to undermine the whole democratic cause. That is the case, however, with Odd Man Out. The central character is an Irish revolutionist, the action an obscure scuffle with the Belfast police. If the story does not measure up to such classics in its field as The Confidential Agent or Journey into Fear, the failure is due to Mr. Green’s inability to fuse his psychology with his thrills, and not to his preoccupation with a purely local brawl.
The story begins with a robbery in which Johnny, chief of staff of the revolutionary group known, tactfully, only as “the Organization,” kills a man and is himself seriously wounded. His assistants make off with the loot, while Johnny escapes alone and by blind luck. After this episode, the book falls into two sections: the first detailing the collapse of the revolutionists without Johnny; and the second, the reactions of a number of citizens who encounter him in his delirious flight from the police.
As long as Mr. Green sticks to the outward events of his story, he tells an exciting tale. The robbery scene achieves an almost unbearable suspense, and the characters, from solid householders to minor chiselers, who pick Johnny up as an accident victim and then, realizing who he is, drop him back into the gutter, are sharply drawn, plausible, at once comic and terrifying. But when the author tries to penetrate the minds of his people, he is less successful. When he entangles himself with Johnny’s soul, he is flatly defeated, and goes down in a flurry of adjectives.
Although the good writing outweighs the bad here, the book is notable chiefly for proving that we need not mourn the passing of Hitler’s agents. Any honest political recalcitrant will more than fill their boots.