“The Foreign Correspondent”

Alan Furst

This is a typical Alan Furst spy novel, set in Paris just before World War II. A group of antifascist Italian émigrés publish an underground newspaper that’s distributed within Mussolini’s Italy. The main character is a correspondent for Reuters who we first meet in Spain during that country’s civil war. He’s also the editor of the underground newspaper and the lover of the wife a German aristocrat in Hitler’s Berlin. There’s not a lot of action — Furst specializes in setting, atmosphere, and character — until the end but a sense of menace builds throughout the book.

One common element in all Furst’s “Night Soldiers” books, which interlock but aren’t exactly a series in the conventional sense, is the fictional Brasserie Heininger”. It’s based on the real Brasserie Bofinger, which I’d love to visit despite the fact that French restaurants intimidate me.

“Blood of Victory”

Alan Furst

I love the murky spy world that Alan Furst has created.  In this novel, set in 1940, an émigré Russian writer becomes part of a plot to disrupt the transport of Romanian oil to the Nazis.  It takes place in Istanbul, Izmir, Bucharest, Belgrade, Paris, and many other locations, all of which are nicely drawn by Furst, and features an interesting set of characters, some of which have appeared in his previous books.

“Kingdom of Shadows”

Alan Furst

This is another atmospheric historical spy novel in Furst’s “Night Soldiers” series (it follows “Red Gold“). The hero is an aristocratic Hungarian advertising executive who, in 1938 and 1939 Paris, becomes involved in helping people escape the Nazis and in schemes to head off war. The events are loosley strung together: this is more a novel of character and setting than of plot.

“The Polish Officer”

Alan Furst

“The Polish Officer” comes after “Dark Star” in Furst’s “Night Soldier” series. It’s the story of Alexander de Milja, a young officer working as a cartographer in the Polish Army. After the fall of Poland in September, 1939, he joins Poland’s underground army and various missions take him to Bucharest, Paris, and the Ukraine. Like the other books in the series, it’s intensely atmospheric.

“Dark Star”

Alan Furst

This isn’t exactly a sequel to “Night Soldiers, but it shares a few characters, settings, and, most importantly, atmosphere with Furst’s previous book. It’s the story of André Szara, Pravda correspondent and Soviet spymaster in Paris and his recruitment and running of an agent in pre-war Berlin.

I think I’ll be reading all of the books in Furst’s “Night Soldier” series. The world he creates is absorbing and even if it’s not realistic (something I can’t really judge, not having been a Soviet spy in the 1930’s), it certainly feels realistic.

“Night Soldiers”

Alan Furst

“Night Soldiers” is a gritty spy novel, which is just the kind of spy novel I like — more le Carré than Fleming. It’s the story of a young Bulgarian who, just before World War II, is trained in Moscow as a Soviet spy. The rest of the novel takes place during and just after the war and its vivid settings in include Paris, Poland, and civil war Madrid.