In 1939, as the armies of Europe mobilized for war, the British secret services undertook operations to impede the exportation of Roumanian oil to Germany. They failed. Then, in the autumn of 1940, they tried again....
So begins Blood of Victory, a novel rich with suspense, historical insight, and the powerful narrative immediacy we have come to expect from best-selling author Alan Furst. The book takes its title from a speech given by a French senator at a conference on petroleum in 1918: Oil, he said, the blood of the earth, has become, in time of war, the blood of victory.
November 1940. The Russian writer I. A. Serebin arrives in Istanbul by Black Sea freighter. Although he travels on behalf of an migr organization based in Paris, he is in flight from a dying and corrupt Europespecifically, from Nazi-occupied France. Serebin finds himself facing his fifth war, but this time he is an exile, a man without a country, and there is no army to join. Still, in the words of Leon Trotsky, You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you. Serebin is recruited for an operation run by Count Janos Polanyi, a Hungarian master spy now working for the British secret services.
The battle to cut Germany's oil supply rages through the spy haunts of the Balkans; from the Athene Palace in Bucharest to a whorehouse in Izmir; from an elegant yacht club in Istanbul to the river docks of Belgrade; from a skating pond in St. Moritz to the fogbound banks of the Danube; in sleazy nightclubs and safe houses and nameless hotels; amid the street fighting of a fascist civil war.
Blood of Victory is classic Alan Furst, combining remarkable authenticity and atmosphere with the complexity and excitement of an outstanding spy thriller. As Walter Shapiro of Time magazine wrote, "Nothing can be like watching Casablanca for the first time, but Furst comes closer than anyone has in years."
©2002 Alan Furst (P)2011 Simon & Schuster
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
'Blood of Victory' is an oblique sequel to 'Kingdom of Shadows' and the seventh novel in Furst's 'Night Soldiers' series. This novel, however, is set more in Romania and deals with the intrigue around the travels of Ilya Serebin a Russian emigre who runs a organization for Russian exiles and gets caught up in trying to slow Hitler's march into Romania and eventually, inevitably Russia. It is a story about Romanian oil, Hitler's dark creep and the shadows and hard-boiled misfits that wander around, without a home, trying to stop him.
I don't know if it just sepia-fatigue but Furst's novels just aren't hitting me as hard as they once did. 'Blood of Victory' was better written than his last novel, and Furst's plots and characters are still inovative, but just not brilliant. I know I'm asking a lot, and perhaps I'm just weary of the cinematic, hard-boild schtick. I might need to put Furst to rest for a bit. He is too good a genre writer to give up on, but I might have just over-dosed on the Furst world's war.
I love Alan Furst's books, and have read many. First try of an audio version. My view is that his books do not make the transition to audio very well. Nothing wrong with the narrator as such, just that audio narration of this book moves too slowly to keep my attention, thus constantly going back to repeat previous content that I spaced out on.
For me, this is true of many audio books, and find that I prefer non-fiction for audio. The exception was Len Carriou doing Harry Bosch, and a few others that had tight fast moving plots and were read with a minimum of the narrator's take on character accent and voice.
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