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
I l oved this book - the characters really came alive and helped me understand life in Greece and the Balkans before and early into WWII - the story covered so many of the problems that the war created and Costos and his family and even his dog were very real. The narrator was great. The role of the British and their spies added another dimension as well as the escape line for Berlin's jews.
Audiobooks should consider giving this narrator more titles to read, as he excels at every aspect of interpretation that this wonderful historical novel calls for, including the voices of the many characters and the pronunciation of names, places, and foreign-language phrases.
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