Midnight in Europeby Alan Furst
Praise for Alan Furst
“This is the/b>/b>/i>
Praised by Vince Flynn as “the most talented espionage novelist of our generation” and James Patterson as “dazzling,” New York Times bestselling author Alan Furst returns with a taut, suspenseful new novel set in Europe on the eve of World War II.
Praise for Alan Furst
“This is the romantic Paris to make a tourist weep . . . a heartbreaking sense of the vast Homeric epic that was World War II and the smallness of almost every life that was caught up in it.”—The New York Times Book Review, about Mission to Paris
“Unfolds like a vivid dream . . . One couldn’t ask for a more engrossing novel.”—The Wall Street Journal, about Spies of the Balkans
“Though set in a specific place and time, Furst’s books are like Chopin’s nocturnes: timeless, transcendent, universal. One does not so much read them as fall under their spell.”—Los Angeles Times, about The Spies of Warsaw
“Alan Furst’s novels swing a beam into the shadows at the edges of the great events leading to World War II. Readers come knowing he’ll deliver effortless narrative.”—USA Today, about The Foreign Correspondent
“Positively bristles with plot, characters and atmosphere . . . Dark Voyage has the ingredients of several genres—the mystery, the historical novel, the espionage thriller, the romance—but it rises above all of them.”—The Washington Post, about Dark Voyage
After a slow start, this spy thriller set in 1938 from Edgar finalist Furst (Mission to Paris) settles into a lazy pace, as it charts the attempts of two part-time arms dealers, Chistián Ferrar and Max de Lyon, to serve the Spanish Republic and its beleaguered army while most of the continent has its eye on Berlin. Every clandestine mission they undertake—a prolonged quest for cannons in Poland, a nifty operation to trick Russia out of field guns and antiaircraft weaponry in Odessa—is fraught with struggle, and the pro-Franco Nazi spy apparatus always seems one step ahead. A revolving cast of secondary characters leads several plotlines that peter out, heavy on atmosphere, light on action. As usual, Furst manages to capture the fragile, itinerant nature of European life during the interwar period, dropping in hints of the horror to come, but this is one of his less memorable efforts. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (June)
“Furst is the best in the business—the most talented espionage novelist of our generation.”—Vince Flynn
“Page after page is dazzling.”—James Patterson
“Furst writes profoundly realistic books. The brilliant historical flourishes seem to create—or re-create—a world . . . a heartbreaking sense of the vast Homeric epic that was World War II and the smallness of almost every life that was caught up in it.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Though set in a specific place and time, Furst’s books are like Chopin’s nocturnes: timeless, transcendent, universal. One does not so much read them as fall under their spell.”—Los Angeles Times
“Alan Furst’s novels swing a beam into the shadows at the edges of the great events leading to World War II. Readers come knowing he’ll deliver effortless narrative.”—USA Today
“Mesmerizing . . . Mr. Furst is a master at conjuring European scenes and moods during World War II and the fraught years that preceded it.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Alan Furst again shows why he is a grandmaster of the historical espionage genre. . . . It doesn’t get more action-packed and grippingly atmospheric than this.”—The Boston Globe
Another tense drama of pre-World War II Europe from a master of the period.December 1937. Attorney Cristián Ferrar is a Spaniard working in Paris and New York. Civil war rages in his native country, and he fears deeply that Francisco Franco's fascists—the Nationalists—will win. On the other side are the Republicans, who are communists and other loyalists supported by Stalin's Soviet Union. It is in many ways a proxy war between Hitler and Stalin and a precursor to world war. Spies are everywhere, perhaps even in the hero's bed. "For the secret services of Germany, Italy and the USSR, the civil war was a spymaster's dream," Furst writes. He portrays Europe with masterful foreboding, a mood that paints the continent in shades of gray. On both sides, people disappear at the slightest suspicion of treason. Ferrar wants to help the Republicans before all is lost, but how? Messerschmidts supplied by Hitler continually divebomb and slaughter the Republican troops. Almost no country wants to help them—not the United States, not Britain, not France. Italy, of course, is under fascist control. What about the Soviet Union? Can Ferrar and his friend de Lyon buy anti-aircraft munitions from the Soviets? No, not officially. Stalin knows he will eventually need them. But perhaps with the right connections, Ferrar can relieve an Odessa warehouse of the needed materiel and sail it successfully to Valencia. It is an act of bravery and desperation that even with the best outcome won't tip the balance, but Ferrar doesn't know that. As usual, Furst manages to hold the reader's rapt attention without blood-and-guts action.Furst owns the dark blanket that covers Europe between the two world wars. His latest is a satisfying, thought-provoking read.
In Furst's latest suavely detached historical spy thriller, Cristián Ferrar is a Spanish emigré living in Paris. It's 1938, and the Spanish Civil War is raging while the Nazis are taking over Germany. Having fled Spain years earlier with his family at age 12, Ferrar has adapted well to France and is now a successful lawyer at a French law firm. He agrees, however, to do what he can to help the Spanish Republic after he's asked to assist with buying arms for the war effort. His first foray into weapon dealing takes him to Berlin, where Nazi rule has gotten uncomfortably dangerous. Some quick thinking and inspired negotiating free his compatriot from imprisonment and gain them a source for weapons. This takes Ferrar and company next to Poland, where they have to recover a hijacked train full of weapons. VERDICT Despite an intriguing and several escapades fraught with danger, there is little here of the suspense one expects from a spy thriller, leaving the reader a bit underwhelmed. Strictly for Furst fans.—Melissa DeWild, Kent District Lib., Comstock Park, MI
- Random House Publishing Group
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- Product dimensions:
- 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Read an Excerpt
On a soft, winter evening in Manhattan, the fifteenth of December, 1937, it started to snow; big flakes spun lazily in the sky, danced in the lights of the office buildings, then melted as they hit the pavement. At Saks Fifth Avenue the window displays were lush and glittering—tinsel, toy trains, sugary frost dusted on the glass—and a crowd had gathered at the main entrance, drawn by a group of carolers dressed for a Dickens Christmas in long mufflers, top hats, and bonnets. Here then, for as long as it lasted, was a romantic New York, the New York in a song on the radio.
Cristián Ferrar, a Spanish émigré who lived in Paris, took a moment to enjoy the spectacle, then hurried across the avenue as the traffic light turned red and began to work his way through the crowd. In a buckled briefcase carried under his arm, he had that morning’s New York Times. The international news was as usual: marches, riots, assassinations, street brawls, arson; political warfare was tearing Europe apart. Real war was coming, this was merely the overture. In Spain, political warfare had flared into civil war, and, the Times reported, the Army of the Republic had attacked General Franco’s fascist forces at the Aragonese town of Teruel. And, you only had to turn the page, there was more: Hitler’s Nazi Germany had issued new restrictions on the Jews, while here was a photograph of Benito Mussolini, shown by his personal railcar as he gave the stiff-armed fascist salute, and there a photograph of Marshal Stalin, reviewing a parade of tank columns.
Cristián Ferrar would force himself to read it, would ask himself, Is there anything to be done? Is it hopeless? So it seemed. Elsewhere in the newspaper, the democratic opposition to the dictators tried not to show fear, but it was in their every word, the nervous dithering of the losing side. As Franco and his generals attacked the elected Republic, the others joined in, troops and warplanes provided by Germany and Italy, and with every victory they boasted and bragged and strutted: It’s our turn, get out of our way.
He’d had a long, long day. A lawyer with the Coudert Frères law firm in Paris—“coo-DARE,” he would remind his American clients—he’d spent hours at the Coudert Brothers home office at 2 Rector Street. There’d been files to read, meetings to attend, and confidential discussions with the partners, as they worked on matters that involved both the Paris and the New York offices, whose wealthy clientele had worldwide business interests and, sometimes, eccentric lives. Coudert had, early in the century, famously untangled the byzantine affairs of the son of Jacques Lebaudy. Lebaudy père had earned millions of dollars, becoming known as “the Sugar King of France,” but the son was another story. On receipt of his father’s fortune he’d gone thoroughly mad and led a private army to North Africa and there declared himself “Emperor of the Sahara.” In time, the French Foreign Legion had sent the emperor packing and he’d wound up living on Long Island, where his wife shot and killed him.
But the difficulties of the Lebaudy case were minor compared to what Coudert had faced that day: the legal hell created by the Spanish Civil War, now in its seventeenth month; individuals and corporations cut off from their money, families in hiding because they were trapped on the wrong side—whatever side that was—burnt homes, burnt factories, burnt records, with no means of proving anything to insurance companies, or banks, or government bureaucracies. The Coudert lawyers in Paris and New York did the best they could, but sometimes there was little to be done. “We regret your misfortune, monsieur, but the oil tanker has apparently vanished.”
Ferrar had left the Coudert office at five-thirty and headed uptown to his hotel, the Gotham, then, as a favor to a friend at the Spanish embassy in Paris, he’d walked over to the Spanish Republic’s arms-buying office at 515 Madison Avenue. Here he’d picked up two manila envelopes he would take back to Paris—the days when you could trust the mail were long gone. He went next to Saks, meaning to buy Christmas presents—a hammered-silver bracelet and a cashmere sweater—for a woman friend he was to meet at seven. This love affair had gone on for more than two years as, every three months or so, he flew to Lisbon, where one could take the Pan Am flying boat to New York.
Actually, Ferrar was not precisely a Spaniard. He’d been born in Barcelona and so thought of himself as Catalan, from Catalonia, in ancient times a principality that included the French province of Roussillon. A Castilian from Madrid might well have recognized Ferrar’s origin: his skin at the pale edge of dark, a gentle hawkish slope to the nose, and the deep green eyes common to the Catalan, with thick, black hair combed straight back from a high forehead and cut in the European style; noticeably long, and low on the neck. In June he’d turned forty, rode horseback in the Bois de Boulogne twice a week, and stayed lean and tight with just that exercise. Heading toward the entrance to Saks, he wore a kind of lawyer’s battle dress: good, sober suit beneath a tan, delicately soiled raincoat, fedora hat slightly tilted over the left eye, maroon muffler, and brown leather gloves. With the briefcase under his arm, Ferrar looked like what he was, a lawyer, a hardworking paladin ready to defend you against Uncle Henry’s raid on your trusts.
As he reached the entry to the department store, Ferrar saw once again a thin little fellow who wore gold-rimmed spectacles, hands in the pockets of a blue overcoat, shoulders slumped as from fatigue or sorrow, who had followed him all day. This time he was leaning against the door of a taxi while the driver read a newspaper by the light of a streetlamp. The man in the blue overcoat had been with Ferrar at every stop, waiting outside at each location but not at all secretive, as though someone wanted Ferrar to know he was being watched.
Now who would that be?
There were many possibilities. For the secret services of Germany, Italy, and the USSR, the civil war in Spain was a spymaster’s dream, and attacks were organized against targets everywhere in Europe: politicians of the left, diplomats, intellectuals, journalists, idealists—all much-favored prey of the clandestine forces, be they fascist or communist. At embassies, social salons, grand hotels, and nightclubs, the predators worked day and night. As for the man who followed him, Ferrar suspected he might be a local communist in service to the NKVD, since the USSR—the Republic’s crucial, almost its only, ally—famously spied on its enemies, its friends, and everybody else. Or could the man be working for Franco’s secret police?
Ferrar was determined not to brood about it, he could think of nothing to do in response, and he was not someone easily intimidated. He dismissed the man’s presence with an unvoiced sigh, pulled the massive door open, and entered the store. Barely audible above the din of the shopping crowd, yet another band of carolers was singing “joyful and tri-umm-phant.” Momentarily adrift in an aromatic maze of perfume and cosmetics counters, Ferrar searched for the jewelry department. The man in the blue overcoat waited outside.
p. j. delaney it said on the window. Then, below that, bar & grill.
The very perfection of what the gossip columnists would call “the local saloon.” It had been there forever, on East Thirty-Seventh Street in Murray Hill, a neighborhood of rooming houses and small hotels, a low rung on the middle-class ladder where office workers, salesclerks, and people who did God-only-knew-what lived in genteel poverty. But their lives were their own. The neighborhood had, for no particular reason, a seductive air of privacy about it. You could do what you liked, nobody cared.
Delaney’s, as it was known, was down four steps from the sidewalk, open the door and the atmosphere came rolling out at you; decades of spilled beer and cigarette smoke. Cristián Ferrar sat in a booth by the wall; a stout wooden table—its edges scarred by cigarette burns—was flanked by benches attached to high backs, the tops handsomely scrolled. He had his New York Times spread out before him, ashtray to one side, whiskey and soda on the other.
Ferrar tried to read the newspaper, then folded it up and put it back in his briefcase—at least for the moment he would spare himself the smoke and fume of Europe on fire. He was in Delaney’s to meet his lover, Eileen Moore, so turned his thoughts to the pleasures they would share. As he thought of her, his eyes wandered up to the window and the sidewalk outside where, since the bar was below street level, he could see only the lower halves of people walking by. Could he identify Eileen before she entered the bar? In his imagination he could see her strong legs in black cotton stockings, but she might be wearing something else. Outside it was still snowing, a little girl paused, then bent over to peer through the window until her mother towed her away.
Ferrar had a sip of his drink; then, when he put the glass down, there she was. “Hello, Cristián,” she said, hands in the pockets of her wool coat. He stood, his smile radiant, and they embraced—a light, public embrace which lingered for the extra second that separates friendship from intimacy. Then he helped her off with her coat, finding ways to touch her as he did so, and hung it on a brass hook fixed to the side of the booth. She sat, slid next to the wall, he settled beside her, she rested a hand on his knee, there were droplets of melted snow in her hair.
“It’s been too long,” he said.
“We’ll make up for that,” he said.
Her hand tightened on his knee. Their eyes met, followed by a pair of knowing smiles. Grins, almost.
She had auburn hair, parted in the middle and falling in wings to her shoulders—easy to brush into place, cheap to maintain—and a pale, redhead’s complexion with a spray of freckles barely visible across the bridge of her nose: an Irish girl, raised in the Bronx, now, in her early thirties, living a Manhattan life. She wouldn’t be called pretty, but her face was animated and alive and good to look at. She wore a gray wool sweater that buttoned up the front, little gold earrings, no makeup, French perfume he’d bought her in August, black skirt, and the black cotton stockings with a seam up the back.
“Seeing you made me forget,” she said. “I meant to say buenas noches. Did I get that right?”
“You did,” he said. Then, “The old greeting—they don’t say that these days.”
By this she was startled. “And why not?”
“It would mean that you were of the upper classes and someone would arrest you. Now they say Salut, or Salut camarada. You know, ‘comrade.’ ”
“I’m not much of a comrade,” she said. “I marched, back in November, and we have a Help Spain coin jar at work, that’s about as far as I go with the politics.” At work meant, he knew, at the Public Library, where she shelved books at night. By day she wrote novels—cheap paperbacks with lurid covers.
“Have you eaten?” he asked.
“No, I’m not all that hungry. What’s on the blackboard?”
“ ‘Chicken à la king,’ it said. Which is . . . ?”
“Pieces of chicken in a cream sauce on toast. If the cook is feeling his oats there might be a pea or two in there.”
“And what king ate this?”
Her laugh was loud and harsh. “You,” she said.
“Let me get you a drink.”
“What’ve you got there?”
“Whiskey and soda.”
“Rye whiskey, in here. Yes, I’ll have that.”
He went to the bar and returned with the drink. Eileen took a pack of Chesterfields from her purse, smacked it twice on the table to firm up the tobacco at the smoker’s end, then peeled back the foil. Ferrar drew a Gitane from his packet and lit both their cigarettes. She raised her glass and said, “Salut, comrade,” then added, “and mud in your eye” and drank off a generous sip.
“In my eye?” He was being droll, which she really liked. And it sounded good in his accent—vaguely foreign, with a British lilt, because he’d learned his English in Paris, where the teachers were British expatriates.
“Are you still living at the same place?” Ferrar said.
She nodded. “The good old Iroquois Hotel. A room and a hotplate, bathroom down the hall.”
And a bed, he thought. A fond memory, that narrow bed with a lumpy mattress and iron rails at head and foot. Not much of a bed, but wonderful things happened there. With Eileen Moore he shared two great passions; they loved to laugh, and they loved sex—the more they excited each other, the more excited they became. Attraction was always mysterious, he believed—he didn’t really know what drew her to him—but for himself he knew very well indeed. Yes, he had a fierce appetite for her small, curved shape, for her round bottom in motion, but beyond that he was wildly provoked by her redhead’s coloring: her white body, the faded pink of her nether parts. He believed, deep down where his desire lived, that redheads had thinner skin, so that a single stroke went a long way. In Ferrar’s imagination, amid the crowd in the noisy bar, he recalled how, when he first touched her nipples, her chin lifted and her face became taut and concentrated. Stop it, he told himself—it was too soon to leave. He finished his drink and went off to get two more.
Waiting at the bar, Ferrar remembered the first time he’d seen her. She’d been working as a clerk in a warehouse near the Hudson River, there’d been a sudden fire, two of the workers had been injured and were carried out as the building burned to a shell. The owner, a German Jew who’d fled to Paris, had filed a claim with his insurance company, the company stated that the fire was arson and refused to pay, the owner retained Coudert and sued. When Ferrar, in New York for meetings, had deposed some of the workers, Eileen Moore sat across from him at a desk while a secretary recorded the deposition in shorthand. She did not record, but may have noticed, that attraction between Eileen Moore and Ferrar was instantaneous and powerful. Three months later—the insurance company had settled—he was back in the city; he called her, they met at Delaney’s, they went to her room.
Meet the Author
Alan Furst is widely recognized as the master of the historical spy novel. Now translated into eighteen languages, he is the author of Night Soldiers, Dark Star, The Polish Officer, The World at Night, Red Gold, Kingdom of Shadows, Blood of Victory, Dark Voyage, The Foreign Correspondent, The Spies of Warsaw, Spies of the Balkans, Mission to Paris, and Midnight in Europe. Born in New York, he lived for many years in Paris, and now lives on Long Island.
- Sag Harbor, New York
- Place of Birth:
- New York, New York
- B.A., Oberlin College
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Another great book in Furst's series of pre-WWII spy novels. Just by reading, you can picture the characters. There are some returning characters from other Furst novels. This novel takes you from New York City to Paris to Berlin, Poland and Spain. The main character is not a hero but must deal with the situations that he is placed into. Very easy to read and follow the story and characters. Read in less than 2 days.
I have read all of Alan Furst's novels and this one is in the same tradition. He creates an atmosphere that makes you feel you are living alongside his characters. I highly recommend this novel and his other novels as well.
*Recieved a free uncorrected copy through Goodreads First reads First off Let me say this, I received the uncorrected proof of Midnight in Europe. And I didn't catch any writing flaws of grammatical errors. Which is awesome!!! So, if you know me, you would know that I love and crave romance novels. There's another side of me though, that not a ton of people know about, that side of me loves novels that center around Wars. All wars. World War two is my favorite era for novels. Midnight in Europe centers around that harshness. Who do you trust? How can you decipher who is a spy? Who is a friend? Who is the enemy? In a world of danger and distrust, blood and Guns, who is your ally? This book was suspenseful with a touch or two of romance!! I thoroughly enjoyed this book!
For anyone interested in the events leading up to WWII and the rise of Nazi Germany this book provides a powerful story and gives one food for thought. I am very interested in this historic time period and look to the novel to push me to reading the history.
Very bland, weak and forgetable Ferrar as the main character. I was 6 years old when the Spanish civil war started between Franco's Nationalists and the Republicans that was a coalition of some so called republicans penetrated by anarchists, socialists and communists backed by the URSS. These animals commited a carnage of catholic priests, nuns, and catholicsin general murdering them by the thousands and burning dozens of churches and convents. Just wonder why the author was silent in this "fiction" fantasy story.
A good read.
This is the 1st Alan Furst I have read and I was impressed. Thoughtful, insightful. Interesting times these were.
This book is not up to his usual standard. I wonder if he owed his publisher a book and didn't have the time to do it right.
Worst book of his I have ever read. It's 199 pages of... nothing. He is all over the place - starting a plot line and then leaving it till well never. Not sure what the deal is, but it's like he forgot how to write. I love ALL of his other books!
(Sory ben busy with practice and then went to state as a manager) Come on in. Its open
Read like a "paint by numbers" if that makes sense. I was so looking forward to this book but I think it is his weakest story...
I definitely have to agree with all of the other reviewers that this novel, at best, rates a mere two stars. The plot line was very weak, a lot like a badly frayed rope. I couldn't really identify with any of the characters. That left a big void in my enjoying the reading. The failure to identify with these characters is the fault of bad character development in Furst's writing. This was my first and last foray into his novels. There are simply too many really good writers out there for me to waste time (and money) on these books.
At asher res 1
Cristian Ferrar is a lawyer, a bachelor, a ladies man and now that Fascism and Socialism are threatening to spread their menacing reach across Europe he has added spy and arms buyer to the list. Cristian was born in Spain but due to political turmoil his family emigrated to France. Wanting to help his home country of Spain in any way he can Cristian finds himself working for the embassy of the Spanish Republic in their fight against General Franco's Facist Army. A lot of international men traveled to Spain to fight for the Republic but Cristian's family commitments of being the only one supporting his father, mother, cousin, and grandmother left him conflicted so he chose his family and didn't join the fighting forces but his job for the embassy was just as important if not more important than joining in the fighting and he still was able to provide for his family. Working with, Max de Lyon, Cristian goes about the task of not only buying arms for the republic but also risking everything to try to get these much needed weapons to the men fighting for the republic. Max has been at the spy game for a long time and shows Cristian how the game is played but don't count Cristian as the Robin to Max's Batman no Cristian's resources and quick thinking get them all out of some sticky situations. The war for the republic of Spain is looking bleak as Franco gets back up from Hitler and Mussolini making Cristian's mission all the more important. The game of espionage is a dangerous one and Cristian finds himself in quite a few situations where his very life is on the line. Racing across Europe to obtain and ship the armaments for the republic tests not only Cristian's resolve but his wits. I however did not find the thrill that should have been there in the more hairy situations Cristian found himself in because there was a lack of something, it just didn't pull me in. Espionage is not the only thing on Cristian's mind. Love affairs with three different women from three different countries also keeps him pretty busy, maybe he is trying to compete with 007! One a teacher, another a author/librarian, another a spy, Cristian can sure pick them. The ending had to do with love and not war which is always nice but again there was something lacking, something missing, and I just was like blah which Teed Me Off because this is so my type of book. All in all it wasn't horrible but it wasn't that great either it just was. So unfortunately I was quite disappointed.