ABOUT THIS BOOKAn autumn evening in 1937. A German engineer arrives at the Warsaw railway station. Tonight, he will be with his Polish mistress; tomorrow, at a workers’ bar in the city’s factory district, he will meet with the military attaché from the French embassy. Information will be exchanged for money. So begins The Spies of Warsaw, the brilliant new novel by Alan Furst, lauded by The New York Times as “America’s preeminent spy novelist.”
War is coming to Europe. French and German intelligence operatives are locked in a life-and-death struggle on the espionage battlefield. At the French embassy, the new military attaché, Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier, a decorated hero of the 1914 war, is drawn into a world of abduction, betrayal, and intrigue in the diplomatic salons and back alleys of Warsaw. At the same time, the handsome aristocrat finds himself in a passionate love affair with a Parisian woman of Polish heritage, a lawyer for the League of Nations.
Colonel Mercier must work in the shadows, amid an extraordinary cast of venal and dangerous characters–Colonel Anton Vyborg of Polish military intelligence; the mysterious and sophisticated Dr. Lapp, senior German Abwehr officer in Warsaw; Malka and Viktor Rozen, at work for the Russian secret service; and Mercier’s brutal and vindictive opponent, Major August Voss of SS counterintelligence. And there are many more, some known to Mercier as spies, some never to be revealed.
This is the first book I have read by Alan Furst and also a bit out of my normal genre comfort zone. However, I was pleasantly surprised as I wasn't sure I would like a period piece about war but I got caught up in this right away and thought the descriptions made me feel like I was right there in Warsaw so kept me reading.
This story takes place in Warsaw about two years before Hitler actually started World War II. The main character is Jean-Francois Mercer who works as the French embassy attache when he suddenly is drawn in as a spy. Mercer is a least likely spy, not the stereotypical spy at all. He is supposed to find out more about how Hitler will attack France and about the strength of their armored warfare. During this time, he is actually approached by Russian spys, falls in love with a lawyer from Paris, and is successful in his spying only to find out the people who gave him the job don't believe him.
During this time, Mercier is hunted by an SS agent and other dangerous spies, yet the excitement and carrying out of Mercier's tasks are what make for a plot that is, I must say, fairly predictable and yet some how satisfying. The ending is what I didn't expect as I am used to a twist or closure and this one left me guessing as to who really some of the people were and what might happen after the book ended. I guess Furst writes often in this style and so his fans are used to being left with little surprise but a lot of wondering.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alan Furst was born and raised in Manhattan. He lived in the South of France—as a Fulbright Teaching fellow at the Faculte des Lettres at the University of Montpellier, then in Seattle, where he worked for the City of Seattle Arts Commission. . He wrote for magazines—travel pieces and book reviews for Esquire, and wrote and published four novels. Returning to France, he lived in Paris, wrote a weekly column for The International Herald Tribune, and wrote his first historical espionage novel, Night Soldiers (Houghton Mifflin, 1988). This was followed by Dark Star (Houghton Mifflin,1991), The Polish Officer (Random House, 1995), The World at Night (Random House, 1996), Red Gold (Random House, 1999), Kingdom of Shadows (Random House, 2000), Blood of Victory (Random House, 2002), Dark Voyage (Random House 2004), The Foreign Correspondent (Random House 2006), and The Spies of Warsaw (Random House 2008).
All the above titles are available from Random House Trade Paperbacks, and in the United Kingdom from Orion Books. His novels have been translated into seventeen languages. In 2002, Alan Furst was featured in an advertisement for Absolut Vodka, for which he wrote the copy, in the style of his novels.
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