A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
One of those GREAT, sweeping spy epics. Furst stands right with le Carré (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold), Littell (the Company), and Mailer (Harlot's Ghost) in his ability to capture the ambiguity, color, temperature and texture of prewar Europe as well as the people and claustrophobia of War.
I'm glad I decided to crack this spy nut. While there are segments here and there I didn't think were fantastic, on the whole, the entire novel was worth the time, effort, and credit. Spy fiction doesn't get much better than this. I read/listened to an earlier novel of his a few months ago (Mission to Paris) while traveling in E. Europe and almost ended my Furst journey before it began. I'm glad I went back to the beginning. Just based on this ONE novel, I'm about ready to commit to the next three or four Night Soldier novels.
Alan Furst's great historical espionage novel, Dark Star is a prewar epic of Europe's moral ambiguities and shifting loyalties. Told through the eyes of Pravda journalist and Luftmensch (and sometimes NKVD spy) André Szara, the story stretches from Paris to Berlin, Warsaw, and even down to Izmir. In this novel Furst examines ideas of trust and suspicion, love and hate, magnetism and repulsion.
It is a novel about the compromises good men make to survive, the power that a few evil men have over millions, and the sacrifices a few Luftmenschen make to save thousands. Ultimately, Dark Star is a story of the Russian and German nonaggression pact (Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact) at the beginning of WWII and how the Jewish members of Stalin's spy network were forced to make huge compromises to survive (most didn't survive) and how some were pushed into heroics because decency and the times demanded it.
The magic of this novel is that Furst is able to unweave the complicated nature of the prewar spy alliances and show all the different threads and colors and never lose the reader. His prose is amazing. His characters are nearly perfect. One of my favorite historical spy novels of all time.
A non-typical Furst novel, 'Dark Voyage' is primarily centered on a Dutch captain (DeHaan), his multicultural crew, and the merchant marine perils that faced sailors from the Mediterranean to the Baltic seas. Every book Furst writes appears to grow from the same thesis, but stretch into entirely new areas. This was a nice deviation from his normal East European or Parisian locals.
With every Furst novel, I become more and more amazed at the nuance of his novels. He seems content to write his novels in the periphery of history. His characters float past major events like mouches volantes through the dark vision of history. He wants to tell the story of minor characters, minor battles, minor countries that together all made a major difference in WWII.
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
In the first book of Greenwood's Phryne Fisher Mysteries, we're introduced to our heroine, who might at first be mistaken for a wealthy English aristocrat, though we learn she was born in Australia where she lived in poverty with her parents until the passing of a rich relation in England. Phryne, all grown up and living in England, now has more money than she knows what to do with, and is wondering what she should do with her life, since marriage isn't an option she especially looks forward to. After she uncovers a jewel thief during a dinner party, a couple asks her to investigate their son-in-law, as they suspect he might be poisoning their daughter who lives in Melbourne. Phryne doesn't hesitate to leave boring London society behind and make her way to the colonies for a bit of adventure and excitement. She finds plenty there when she encounters a communist taxi driver, meets a gorgeous Russian male dancer and is on the trail of a cocaine ring that seems to be operating out of a Turkish bath house.
This series is firmly set in the roaring 1920s, but there's no mistaking that it was written in modern times. The doctor friend heading the women's hospital in Melbourne is a feminist who uses language to describe female troubles and anatomy that would have made a 20s female author blush. Phryne isn't afraid to use her feminine allure with an attitude that harks back to the flapper girls of old, who could have taught our modern femme fatales a lesson or two in the art of seduction. You can't help but like a girl with attitude who is also kind and caring, and takes such obvious delight in dressing to perfection for every occasion. This is pure chick lit and no mistake, all good fun and good times, with just the right amount of cheek and naughtiness.