The plot of Graham Greene’s “Brighton Rock” is fairly straightforward, and as a murder thriller its two narratives led by its two main characters – the first a two-part “whodunit” and “howcatchem” by the unconventional detective Ida Arnold, and the second on the clean-up by Pinkie, after the murder of Charles “Fred” Hale – build up towards a conclusive confrontation and resolution. The naïve Rose, the third of three main characters, speedily becomes the girlfriend and the wife of Pinkie, which perhaps explains the disproportionate emphasis on Pinkie and his sordid acts with and on “the mob” (that is, the second over the first narrative). Little, therefore, was made about how Ida nailed Pinkie for his crimes.
Which is a shame, because she was the character I had the most interest in. Given their age and their (family) circumstances and their ignorance as well as the run-ins they have as the underdogs, there is some sympathy for Pinkie and Rose. But this supply runs short, as the former turns out to be bland and incorrigible, and the latter is hopelessly devoted – to the extent of being unbelievable. In a neat introduction South African novelist J. M. Coetzee also pointed to the theme of Catholicism, specifically in contrasting Ida from Pinkie and Rose. He wrote: Ida is “shrewd, dogged, and unflappable, but also a stout ideological antagonist to the Catholic axis of Pinkie and Rose [who possess an unshakeable sense of inner superiority]”.
Otherwise, there was little to the climax and the resolution, both of which were too bland and short for my liking. There is little to the murders, and there is, furthermore, little that thrills throughout the novel. Instead as Coetzee noted Greene’s novel bears “the imprint of the cinema: a preference for observation from the outside without commentary, tight cutting from scene to scene, equal emphasis for the significant and the non-significant”. In this vein the descriptions of scenes and of the seaside resort of Brighton in general – in other words, scene-setting or the setting up of conversations or interactions or other important plot points – make up for the aforementioned weaknesses of “Brighton Rock”.