Alan Furst remains in a class of his own. His writing is superb. He consistently delivers engaging historical intrigue that avoids gratuitous emotional traps with a frighteningly realistic plot. He honors his readers with a respect for their intelligence, and a literary style one longs for in the work of those who aren't Alan Furst. The audible performance does justice to a class act in espionage story telling.
Chilling descriptions of the Soviet experience. Interesting Dialogue0- a Journey through Europe-
I'll put it with an John LaCarre or Tom Clancy- Alan Furst is the best Cloak and Dagger Author I have ever had the privilege to read!
Gotta love Elia! Also : Senescal - brings energy and twists to an unforgettable story.
The Soviet Journalist.
Please keep writing Alan- and keep the partnership with Guidall- finish your work before he loses his voice!
My first Furst was a success overall, however I don’t know how many more of them I will read. What? How can that be if I say it was a success? Well, it was more the feeling of the inevitable and the futility of it all that I had while reading. 70 years after World War II it’s tough to really suspend one’s disbelief during a spy story and pretend we don’t know how things turned out. Even though Szara was thoroughly engaging and human, fought on the ‘right’ side of things and went about his task with a grim instinct for his role, I still felt pangs of ‘what is it all for?’.
As a protagonist, Szara was great. His little side jobs for the NKVD became much more than he bargained for, but he handled it with expertise he didn’t know he had. He’s vaguely romantic in the sense that he has fought in wars and is a widower due to those same wars (the fact that his wife was a nurse makes it even more romantic). He’s got a good head on his shoulders and keeps his cool under fire. He’s not idealistic; he’s trying to do the best he can in a situation he can’t control. He’s shrewd but not cruelly manipulative. A good guy in a bad circumstance is the overall impression and I was glad how things ended for him even if it was so different from how most other espionage novels end.
I also liked how the overall plot wasn’t some gigantic, war-changing operation that was so vitally important as to make all other considerations meaningless. Instead it was a very localized operation moved along by relatively junior personnel. Maybe that’s what lent the feeling of futility to the story. This minor sideline wasn’t going to change anything and so the sense of time wasted, lives wasted was pretty strong for me. After all the plotting, betrayal and bloodshed the information was really not as hard to come by as Szara thought and so what good did it all do? That’s the feeling of futility and doom that pervaded for me throughout, but especially at the end when I got a horrible deflated feeling.
I did like the small sphere Furst gave us though. Through his descriptions of bombings, life as a refugee and as ‘burnt’ spy desperate for a new identity and way to safety, I really felt how trapped and hopeless it was for those people caught by it. It was very quotidian and not over the top and thus much more believable. I could easily imagine people going through with and attempting similar things to Szara. Small cogs just trying to get by. It was touching and somehow familiar although I wonder if they still make people who could do what these did. The absolute audacity of the German regime and the utter passivity of the rest of Europe (well, that’s how it came across in this novel anyway) was pretty shocking. I mean, I understand wanting to keep out of someone else’s fight, but what the hell did they think was happening to these people as they were marginalized, shut out and shipped from one place to another? Unthinkable, but it happened.
I first read Alan Furst's Night Soldiers and was amazed to learn how little I knew of pre WWII Eastern bloc countries and the relationships between those countries. Furst creates complex characters with conflicting motivations and places them in nearly impossible situations to navigate, where their personal survival is at risk from governments, lovers, friends, where knowing who to trust seems impossible. The plot unfolds like a chess game played by masters, with twists and counter twists, strategies foreshadowed and re-echoing. The complexity of the novels makes them somewhat challenging to listen to, and I might have preferred to read them. Rarely do I read novels twice, but Furst's works would benefit, I think, from a second perusal.
Shades of Eric Ambler, this gives an authentic flavor to the times and places. I needed an atlas to keep things straight, but that just made it more appealing.
One of the finest historical fiction novels I ever read, expertly researched and a compelling period piece. Alan Furst's prose is beautifully crafted, and I think this is probably his best book. George Guidall takes some getting used to, but ultimately I think he was well cast for this book, and for Alan Furst's novels generally.
I love this genre and this book truly satisfied my historical curiosity with a great story to boot. I cannot wait for more from this author.
I generally like Alan Furst, but I found Dark Star unfinishable. Too dark, too drawn-out. Furst's characters are a mixed bag, but the main character of Dark Star is so unsympathetic and self-absorbed that I found myself hoping the Stalin hooligans would cart him away already...but they wouldn't oblige, so I just gave up half-way through.
well read book, but the story of Sharia through wartime Germany/Europe feels like the wave at the beach going in and out, the main character is being swept from country to country without real will and destination. Nothing of real importance is revealed of the main character, whether bombs fall on him and the next moment he is in Paris and back in Poland, it all does not matter, like a leaf in the wind.