Greece, 1940. Not sunny vacation Greece: northern Greece, Macedonian Greece, Balkan Greece, the city of Salonika. In that ancient port, with its wharves and warehouses, dark lanes and Turkish mansions, brothels and tavernas, a tense political drama is being played out. On the northern border, the Greek army has blocked Mussolini's invasion, pushing his divisions back to Albania, the first defeat suffered by the Nazis, who have conquered most of Europe. But Adolf Hitler cannot tolerate such freedom; the invasion is coming; its only a matter of time, and the people of Salonika can only watch and wait.
At the center of this drama is Costa Zannis, a senior police official, head of an office that handles special political cases. As war approaches, the spies begin to circle, from the Turkish legation to the German secret service. There's a British travel writer, a Bulgarian undertaker, and more.
Costa Zannis must deal with them all. And he is soon in the game, securing an escape route from Berlin to Salonika, and then to a tenuous safety in Turkey, a route protected by German lawyers, Balkan detectives, and Hungarian gangsters. And hunted by the Gestapo.
Meanwhile, as war threatens, the erotic life of the city grows passionate. For Zannis, that means a British expatriate who owns the local ballet academy, a woman from the dark side of Salonika society, and the wife of a local shipping magnate.
Declared an incomparable expert at his game by The New York Times, Alan Furst outdoes even his own finest novels in this thrilling new book. With extraordinary authenticity, a superb cast of characters, and heart-stopping tension as it moves from Salonika to Paris to Berlin and back, Spies of the Balkans is a stunning novel about a man who risks everything to right - in many small ways - the world's evil.
©2010 Alan Furst (P)2010 Simon & Schuster
George Guidall has narrated most of the Furst novels but this one is an exception. Daniel Gerroll pronounces his words clearly, the most important skill in a narrator, but he just doesn't seem to get in the story. He has an annoying habit of allowing his sentences to fade away at the end. Take this one, for example:
"Forget it, at least for the day. But it didn't forget him."
I don't know whether or not Alan Furst put "it" and "him" in italics, but the intent of the sentence is clearly "But IT didn't forget HIM." Nevertheless, Gerroll's "him" falls off at the end of the sentence. Is he not paying attention to the meaning of what he is reading? Or does his vocal energy simply fade as he moves from the beginning to the end of each sentence? I don't know, but Guidall adds so much meaning, entirely appropriate to the story, to everything he reads. Gerroll doesn't.
George Guidall has narrated hundreds of books. So he is in no way limited to Furst's novels. I don't know how he finds enough time in a lifetime to narrate so many. I just hope he doesn't stop. I would listen to almost anything he reads.
Other reviewers comment on the story, so I'll leave this one, focused on the narrator, at that.
Say something about yourself!
Yes, we have actually given it as a gift to a friend and recommended it to others. The story is complex and as it unwinds, you get deeper and deeper into the central character, a wonderfully drawn complex man.
The pacing and details give you the feeling you are there while the story unfolds.
The police inspector.
This was a perfect road trip book, we listened to it in long sections while were were driving across the west and the time flew by. The variety of characters and their many motivations kept us guessing what would be next. Once or twice the story took a turn and seemed to jump too far, but in a few minutes we understood where the story was at. Keep listening if you feel lost.
Night Soldiers was entertaining. This book seemed to go on and on. It did not hold my attention and I had to hit the back button on several occasions. I began well but became tedious.
Yes. Alan Furst writes a great story that evokes the time and place and Daniel Gerroll provides the perfect voice to tell the tale.
Costa. Hearing a story that conveyed how WWII came to the Balkans -- and why -- through his eyes is a revelation.
Yes -- also an Alan Furst -- Mission to Paris. Both equally as good.
Costa's trip back to Paris.
Alan Furst introduces his readers to World War II, and the run up to it, in places that aren't always thoroughly covered in general history books. Listening, as opposed to reading, to these captures the moment in history. For one thing, Gerroll knows the pronunciation of the names and places! Very helpful.
It was interesting but did not seem to move along as fast as I thought it should. I thought the description of the time was accurate and believable,
A sympathetic protagonist and interesting supporting cast are set against WWII in eastern Europe. On a personal level, it is a fascinating world to visit. Adventure and romance, fight and flight, everyday life, happen as the characters react to and counter fascist Germany's war machine. At the same time the novel gives insight into the politics of the region.
If it was a physical book, it would be one that you'd stay up all night to read. As it is, Daniel Gerroll carries the listener away, and the story is too soon ended.
As you listen to this one, you can practically "hear" the Nazis coming. Character development is exceedingly well done. The "action" is subdued - but completely realistic and believable - as if the writer were actually THERE at the time of the story.
A good story about some good people in a very bad time. Not much has been written about this particular theater of the war, so this book is a good contribution.
This time most of the action is in Greece, an unusual locale for WWII thrillers, which makes it all the more interesting. Furst's intelligent, realistic approach to espionage at its best.
I have read most of his books--some on audible and some "regular" reading. This is his best in a long time. His books are not thrillers in the customary sense. They are more about people caught up in unalterable events out of their control and not of their making and how they deal it with as the situation evolves. If you want more straight mystery thriller type, look elsewhere. This one did have a large element of "how will this all turn out" to it. Elegantly written and the narration went well with the book. Highly reccommended.
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