June Book Review

This month’s review is by Tom Tomlinson

Alan Furst’s Spy Novels

Wondering what to read on Summer vacation? How about one or all ten of Alan Furst’s spy novels?

Furst’s works are set throughout Europe between January 1933 and May 1945, years that framed the beginning and end of Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich. Bad times for residents of Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and Moscow, important venues for Furst’s noirish fiction.

Noir comes easily for Furst as he peoples his novels with atmosphere and characters that are blurred and uncertain. The weather in the author’s Europe is lousy; always November be-misted, fogged, rainy, and snowy clouds not only create the atmosphere but the lives of his main figures as well. Furst’s protagonists are of a kind: they are unheroic, banal of social status and profession – journalists, attorneys, mid-level military officers, sea captains, and the like. Undistinguished all, reluctant to be in harm’s way, Furst’s characters nonetheless rise to the occasions that chance imposes in their way. Almost none of Furst’s peeps wants to be where the author puts them. Fear is their steady companion yet all respond in ways that would have made Rick in Casablanca, Holly Martins in The Third Man and Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List raise their brandy glasses in admiration.

Furst’s prose style is tight in ways that underscores his noir tone, one which puts us as near but no closer to Hitler’s disordered Europe as any of us would care to be.


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