The Spies of Warsaw

( 25 )

Overview

NOW A MINISERIES ON BBC AMERICA STARRING DAVID TENNANT

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, in Warsaw, the new military attaché, Colonel Jean-François 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 the city. At the same time,...

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Overview

NOW A MINISERIES ON BBC AMERICA STARRING DAVID TENNANT

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, in Warsaw, the new military attaché, Colonel Jean-François 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 the city. 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. Risking his life, Colonel Mercier must work in the shadows, amid an extraordinary cast of venal characters, some known to Mercier as spies, some never to be revealed.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Entertaining from first page to last . . . [Alan] Furst is that rarity, a writer of popular fiction who is also a serious novelist.”—Washington Post Book World

“Teeming with intrigue . . . Furst’s novels of World War II Europe are not just atmospheric. They’re transporting.”—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Wildly atmospheric . . . Furst’s novels combines the research habits of a top-shelf historical novelist with a taste for psychic warfare that recalls the work of British writers like W. Somerset Maugham . . . , Anthony Powell . . . , and Evelyn Waugh.”—Men’s Vogue

“This engaging historical fiction should be read by anyone who loves a compelling story well told.”—Houston Chronicle

“A rare thing: an engrossing, deeply emotional, thinking person’s love story.”— San Francisco Chronicle

Janet Maslin
As Mr. Furst plays his usual cat-and-mouse games, he lures both Mercier and the reader into high-stakes espionage activities in which prescience about a possible tank attack is all-important. To the extent that The Spies of Warsaw has a central thread, this is it. But Mr. Furst has created this book on a broad canvas. And he succeeds in doing so without losing sight of his narrative focus…As always, but with especially great efficacy in The Spies of Warsaw, Mr. Furst asks how life can go on in the face of encroaching menace. And in the book's uncommonly fine-tuned portrait of Mercier, it has some kind of answer.
—The New York Times
Jonathan Yardley
Furst is that rarity, a writer of popular fiction who is also a serious novelist. This is the third of his novels that I've reviewed, and the steady growth of his achievement almost can be measured with calipers. At times his prose can get a little strained, as he reaches a little far for effects, but it's now much more controlled than it was a dozen years ago in The World at Night. Like a handful of other writers who have turned espionage fiction into something approximating art—John le Carre, of course, and Charles McCarry—Furst combines the craft of entertainment with the exploration of important themes, and in no way does the entertainment diminish the themes. The Spies of Warsaw is entertaining from first page to last.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Furst, master of the historical spy novel, offers this meticulously detailed and sprawling epic set at the onset of WWII. Drenched in romance and espionage and given to thrilling plot twists, the novel is beautifully realized by Daniel Gerroll, whose mastery of variously accented English dialects lends added authenticity to Furst's tale. Providing gritty and realistic German, French, and even Russian accents, Englishman Gerroll displays a natural stage presence and true performance ability. There is a subtle theatrical aspect at play here as well, creating a mysterious and enchanting atmosphere for the audience. A Random hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 14). (June)

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Library Journal

Furst's latest novel is sure to be counted as one of the very best of the historical espionage genre. Literate, admirably plotted, and featuring a memorable protagonist, it is realistic and sad but hopeful and romantic. A highly competent French army officer, Jean-François Mercier is assigned in 1937 to military attaché duty in Warsaw, a position recognized by all as an opportunity, if not a duty, to engage in spying. Mercier is a World War I combat-wounded hero, a widower whose behavior reveals a nobility and a sense of honor mostly lacking in today's fiction heroes. Using Polish and German agents, he engages in thrilling derring-do and soon recognizes the sinister intentions of the Nazis, which the French high command apparently chooses to ignore. He does his best to alert the French General Staff, especially as to German invasion strategy. Furst brilliantly captures the setting, along with the cynicism of the Warsaw sociopolitical scene. His presentation of Mercier's romantic interludes with a Parisian woman of Polish heritage is sophisticated, elegant, and discreet. Enthusiastically recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/1/08.]
—Jonathan Pearce

Kirkus Reviews
As the Nazis openly plan an invasion, France's military attache in Warsaw does a little spying, eats good meals, travels a bit and spends time in pleasant surroundings with a lovely lawyer for the League of Nations. Wounded in the Great War, Col. Jean-Francois Mercier is a widower with two grown daughters, a vast Parisian apartment, a handsome, slightly shabby country estate and two fine hunting dogs. His current assignment in Poland has him mixing with the local swells-where he picks up bits of information on the tennis court and at dinners-and running a modestly successful intelligence operation involving Herr Uhl, a plump German engineer who swaps details of the Nazis new tank for nights of love with a zaftig "Countess" in Mercier's employ. From the various little bits of information Mercier has gleaned, it becomes depressingly evident that the Nazis are beefing up their tank warfare capability with an eye on the Ardennes forest, the quickest way around the "impregnable" Maginot Line in which France's thick-headed military leaders have placed their total trust. Then the Uhl operation falls apart. An obedient hausfrau sharing his train compartment reports Uhl's nervous behavior to the authorities, resulting in his nearly successful kidnapping by some overeager intelligence agents. Mercier's successful intervention in the snatch earns him a place on the Nazi hit list. Undaunted, the suave Frenchman plans a fake hike on the German border to photograph the latest tank war games, obtaining even more evidence of the Huns' strategy, which will yet again be ignored by the dinosaurs at the top of the French army. Offsetting the frustrations at work is a dalliance with beautiful Anna Szarbek,his blind date at an embassy dinner. Furst (The Foreign Correspondent, 2006, etc.) cuts back a bit on the usual tension, but there is all of the wonderfully wistful late-'30s atmosphere that is his specialty.
The Barnes & Noble Review
Alan Furst's 14th novel opens in late 1937, in a Warsaw menaced by approaching war and teeming with spies of every stripe. Among them is Colonel Jean-Fran?ois Mercier, an aristocratic French military attaché and beau idéal of the dashing secret agent. Forty-six years old, his tall frame a palimpsest of war wounds, he is a melancholy widower. Among the many other spies afoot in these pages is German businessman Edvard Uhl, entrapped by a supposed countess into smuggling information on German tank design to the French. Uhl's activities come to the attention of some exceedingly unpleasant Nazi secret agents, and his life becomes a problem for Mercier to solve. The only non-spy in this espionage-steeped arena seems to be Anna Szarbek, a lawyer for the League of Nations and Mercier's serious love interest The novel moves back and forth between Warsaw and Paris with excursions, among them to the Polish-German border where our hero, creeping through the forest in his waxed Barbour field jacket, observes German military preparations and, later, to the Black Forest, where he witnesses tank maneuvers. Both forays produce evidence suggesting German plans of attack for invasions of Poland and France. If you think Mercier manages to convince anyone with authority to act on his discoveries, you have forgotten your history. What we have here is a thrilling, cleverly plotted re-creation of the sort of hugger-mugger, double-dealing, and wishful thinking that marked the last crepuscular years before full-scale war plunged Europe into darkness. --Katherine A. Powers
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812977370
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/9/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 266,615
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Furst

Alan Furst is widely recognized as the master of the historical spy novel. Now translated into seventeen languages, he is the bestselling author of Night Soldiers, Dark Star, The Polish Officer, The World at Night, Red Gold, Kingdom of Shadows, Blood of Victory, Dark Voyage, and The Foreign Correspondent. Born in New York, he now lives in Paris and on Long Island.

Biography

Alan Furst may have the narrowest purview in literature. His books – which he calls historical espionage novels -- are all set in Europe between 1933 and 1945, and all are stories of World War II intrigue.

But that brief eight-year period in history has given Furst a rich amount of source material; although he had published a handful of earlier novels (now out of print, some of them fetch hundreds of dollars) Furst hit his stride with 1988’s Night Soldiers , his first book to concentrate on the decade that would forever change the world. Furst had found his niche. As Salon rhapsodized in a 2001 review, "...to talk about one of his books is to talk about them all. He is writing one large book in which each new entry adds a piece to the mosaic of Europe in the years leading up to the war, as created by a partisan of the senses."

Furst's books are grounded in their author’s extensive research of the period, and are written in an almost newsy prose broken occasionally by beautiful, lyrical passages describing, say, a Paris morning in the 1940s, or night at the Czechoslavakian-Hungarian border. History buffs will find much to love here; while the books are fiction, some of the details are factual. In Night Soldiers, for example, immigrants arriving at Ellis Island exchanged their clothing for new outfits; in reality, the American government often bought clothing from immigrants to use as costumes for its spies.

And while Furst’s novels are entertaining and, often, elegant, they are not easy reads: the books traverse through a wide swath of Europe (an important character itself in Furst’s fiction), and characters duck behind corners and sometimes stumble into the continent’s more remote regions (while not partying in Paris, that is). Though his male protagonists manage to find and sometimes lose lovers, Furst’s books are primarily concerned with the moral slipperiness involved in fighting off Hitler's advance, where even the best intentions could produce regrettable results.

Furst's books have grown leaner and tauter over the years, the result of a conscious effort "to say more by saying less." Notwithstanding this paring back, or perhaps because of it, the praise for his books only seems to multiply, and Furst’s writing has lost none of its veracity or suspense. Furst, who many critics consider literature’s best-kept secret, may not be a household name yet, but with such buzz, his low profile won’t last much longer.

Good To Know

Night Soldiers originated from a piece Furst wrote for Esquire in 1983. He was also a reporter for the International Herald Tribune and wrote a biography of cookie entrepeneur Debbie Fields.

Furst wrote in a 2002 essay, "For me, Anthony Powell is a religion. I read A Dance to the Music of Time every few years."

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    1. Hometown:
      Sag Harbor, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Oberlin College

Read an Excerpt

HOTEL EUROPEJSKI

In the dying light of an autumn day in 1937, a certain Herr Edvard Uhl, a secret agent, descended from a first-class railway carriage in the city of Warsaw. Above the city, the sky was at war; the last of the sun struck blood-red embers off massed black cloud, while the clear horizon to the west was the color of blue ice. Herr Uhl suppressed a shiver; the sharp air of the evening, he told himself. But this was Poland, the border of the Russian steppe, and what had reached him was well beyond the chill of an October twilight.

A taxi waited on Jerozolimskie street, in front of the station. The driver, an old man with a seamed face, sat patiently, knotted hands at rest on the steering wheel. "Hotel Europejski," Uhl told the driver. He wanted to add, and be quick about it, but the words would have been in German, and it was not so good to speak German in this city. Germany had absorbed the western part of Poland in 1795-Russia ruled the east, Austria-Hungary the southwest corner-for a hundred and twenty-three years, a period the Poles called "the Partition," a time of national conspiracy and defeated insurrection, leaving ample bad blood on all sides. With the rebirth of Poland in 1918, the new borders left a million Germans in Poland and two million Poles in Germany, which guaranteed that the bad blood would stay bad. So, for a German visiting Warsaw, a current of silent hostility, closed faces, small slights: we don't want you here.

Nonetheless, Edvard Uhl had looked forward to this trip for weeks. In his late forties, he combed what remained of his hair in strands across his scalp and cultivated a heavy dark mustache, meant to deflect attention from a prominent bulbous nose, the bulb divided at the tip. A feature one saw in Poland, often enough. So, an ordinary- looking man, who led a rather ordinary life, a more-than-decent life, in the small city of Breslau: a wife and three children, a good job- as a senior engineer at an ironworks and foundry, a subcontractor to the giant Rheinmetall firm in Düsseldorf-a few friends, memberships in a church and a singing society. Oh, maybe the political situation- that wretched Hitler and his wretched Nazis strutting about-could have been better, but one abided, lived quietly, kept one's opinions to oneself; it wasn't so difficult. And the paycheck came every week. What more could a man want?

Instinctively, his hand made sure of the leather satchel on the seat by his side. A tiny stab of regret touched his heart. Foolish, Edvard, truly it is. For the satchel, a gift from his first contact at the French embassy in Warsaw, had a false bottom, beneath which lay a sheaf of engineering diagrams. Well, he thought, one did what one had to do, so life went. No, one did what one had to do in order to do what one wanted to do-so life really went. He wasn't supposed to be in Warsaw; he was supposed, by his family and his employer, to be in Gleiwitz-just on the German side of the frontier dividing German Lower Silesia from Polish Upper Silesia-where his firm employed a large metal shop for the work that exceeded their capacity in Breslau. With the Reich rearming, they could not keep up with the orders that flowed from the Wehrmacht. The Gleiwitz works functioned well enough, but that wasn't what Uhl told his bosses. "A bunch of lazy idiots down there," he said, with a grim shake of the head, and found it necessary to take the train down to Gleiwitz once a month to straighten things out.

And he did go to Gleiwitz-that pest from Breslau, back again!-but he didn't stay there. When he was done bothering the local management he took the train up to Warsaw where, in a manner of speaking, one very particular thing got straightened out. For Uhl, a blissful night of lovemaking, followed by a brief meeting at dawn, a secret meeting, then back to Breslau, back to Frau Uhl and his more-than-decent life. Refreshed. Reborn. Too much, that word? No. Just right.

Uhl glanced at his watch. Drive faster, you peasant! This is an automobile, not a plow. The taxi crawled along Nowy Swiat, the grand avenue of Warsaw, deserted at this hour-the Poles went home for dinner at four. As the taxi passed a church, the driver slowed for a moment, then lifted his cap. It was not especially reverent, Uhl thought, simply something the man did every time he passed a church.

At last, the imposing Hotel Europejski, with its giant of a doorman in visored cap and uniform worthy of a Napoleonic marshal. Uhl handed the driver his fare-he kept a reserve of Polish zloty in his desk at the office-and added a small, proper gratuity, then said "Dankeschön." It didn't matter now, he was where he wanted to be. In the room, he hung up his suit, shirt, and tie, laid out fresh socks and underwear on the bed, and went into the bathroom to have a thorough wash. He had just enough time; the Countess Sczelenska would arrive in thirty minutes. Or, rather, that was the time set for the rendezvous; she would of course be late, would make him wait for her, let him think, let him anticipate, let him steam.

And was she a countess? A real Polish countess? Probably not, he thought. But so she called herself, and she was, to him, like a countess: imperious, haughty, and demanding. Oh how this provoked him, as the evening lengthened and they drank champagne, as her mood slid, subtly, from courteous disdain to sly submission, then on to breathless urgency. It was the same always, their private melodrama, with an ending that never changed. Uhl the stallion-despite the image in the mirrored armoire, a middle-aged gentleman with thin legs and potbelly and pale chest home to a few wisps of hair-demonstrably excited as he knelt on the hotel carpet, while the countess, looking down at him over her shoulder, eyebrows raised in mock surprise, deigned to let him roll her silk underpants down her great, saucy, fat bottom. Noblesse oblige. You may have your little pleasure, she seemed to say, if you are so inspired by what the noble Sczelenska bloodline has wrought. Uhl would embrace her middle and honor the noble heritage with tender kisses. In time very effective, such honor, and she would raise him up, eager for what came next.

He'd met her a year and a half earlier, in Breslau, at a Weinstube where the office employees of the foundry would stop for a little something after work. The Weinstube had a small terrace in back, three tables and a vine, and there she sat, alone at one of the tables on the deserted terrace: morose and preoccupied. He'd sat at the next table, found her attractive-not young, not old, on the buxom side, with brassy hair pinned up high and an appealing face-and said good evening. And why so glum, on such a pleasant night?

She'd come down from Warsaw, she explained, to see her sister, a family crisis, a catastrophe. The family had owned, for several generations, a small but profitable lumber mill in the forest along the eastern border. But they had suffered financial reverses, and then the storage sheds had been burned down by a Ukrainian nationalist gang, and they'd had to borrow money from a Jewish speculator. But the problems wouldn't stop, they could not repay the loans, and now that dreadful man had gone to court and taken the mill. Just like them, wasn't it.

After a few minutes, Uhl moved to her table. Well, that was life for you, he'd said. Fate turned evil, often for those who least deserved it. But, don't feel so bad, luck had gone wrong, but it could go right, it always did, given time. Ah but he was sympathique, she'd said, an aristocratic reflex to use the French word in the midst of her fluent German. They went on for a while, back and forth. Perhaps some day, she'd said, if he should find himself in Warsaw, he might telephone; there was the loveliest café near her apartment. Perhaps he would, yes, business took him to Warsaw now and again; he guessed he might be there soon. Now, would she permit him to order another glass of wine? Later, she took his hand beneath the table and he was, by the time they parted, on fire.

Ten days later, from a public telephone at the Breslau railway station, he'd called her. He planned to be in Warsaw next week, at the Europejski, would she care to join him for dinner? Why yes, yes she would. Her tone of voice, on the other end of the line, told him all he needed to know, and by the following Wednesday-those idiots in Gleiwitz had done it again!-he was on his way to Warsaw. At dinner, champagne and langoustines, he suggested that they go on to a nightclub after dessert, but first he wanted to visit the room, to change his tie.

And so, after the cream cake, up they went.

For two subsequent, monthly, visits, all was paradise, but, it turned out, she was the unluckiest of countesses. In his room at the hotel, brassy hair tumbled on the pillow, she told him of her latest misfortune. Now it was her landlord, a hulking beast who leered at her, made chk-chk noises with his mouth when she climbed the stairs, who'd told her that she had to leave, his latest girlfriend to be installed in her place. Unless . . . Her misty eyes told him the rest.

Never! Where Uhl had just been, this swine would not go! He stroked her shoulder, damp from recent exertions, and said, "Now, now, my dearest, calm yourself." She would just have to find another apartment. Well, in fact she'd already done that, found one even nicer than the one she had now, and very private, owned by a man in Cracow, so nobody would be watching her if, for example, her sweet Edvard wanted to come for a visit. But the rent was two hundred zloty more than she paid now. And she didn't have it.

A hundred reichsmark, he thought. "Perhaps I can help," he said. And he could, but not for long. Two months, maybe three-beyond that, there really weren't any corners he could cut. He tried to save a little, but almost all of his salary went to support his family. Still, he couldn't get the "hulking beast" out of his mind. Chk-chk.

The blow fell a month later, the man in Cracow had to raise the rent. What would she do? What was she to do? She would have to stay with relatives or be out in the street. Now Uhl had no answers. But the countess did. She had a cousin who was seeing a Frenchman, an army officer who worked at the French embassy, a cheerful, generous fellow who, she said, sometimes hired "industrial experts." Was her sweet Edvard not an engineer? Perhaps he ought to meet this man and see what he had to offer. Otherwise, the only hope for the poor countess was to go and stay with her aunt.

And where was the aunt?

Chicago.

Now Uhl wasn't stupid. Or, as he put it to himself, not that stupid. He had a strong suspicion about what was going on. But-and here he surprised himself-he didn't care. The fish saw the worm and wondered if maybe there might just be a hook in there, but, what a delicious worm! Look at it, the most succulent and tasty worm he'd ever seen; never would there be such a worm again, not in this ocean. So . . .

He first telephoned-to, apparently, a private apartment, because a maid answered in Polish, then switched to German. And, twenty minutes later, Uhl called again and a meeting was arranged. In an hour. At a bar in the Praga district, the workers' quarter across the Vistula from the elegant part of Warsaw. And the Frenchman was, as promised, as cheerful as could be. Likely Alsatian, from the way he spoke German, he was short and tubby, with a soft face that glowed with self-esteem and a certain tilt to the chin and tension in the upper lip that suggested an imminent sneer, while a dapper little mustache did nothing to soften the effect. He was, of course, not in uniform, but wore an expensive sweater and a blue blazer with brass buttons down the front.

"Henri," he called himself and, yes, he did sometimes employ "industrial experts." His job called for him to stay abreast of developments in particular areas of German industry, and he would pay well for drawings or schematics, any specifications relating to, say, armament or armour. How well? Oh, perhaps five hundred reichsmark a month, for the right papers. Or, if Uhl preferred, a thousand zloty, or two hundred American dollars-some of his experts liked having dollars. The money to be paid in cash or deposited in any bank account, in any name, that Uhl might suggest.

The word spy was never used, and Henri was very casual about the whole business. Very common, such transactions, his German counterparts did the same thing; everybody wanted to know what was what, on the other side of the border. And, he should add, nobody got caught, as long as they were discreet. What was done privately stayed private. These days, he said, in such chaotic times, smart people understood that their first loyalty was to themselves and their families. The world of governments and shifty diplomats could go to hell, if it wished, but Uhl was obviously a man who was shrewd enough to take care of his own future. And, if he ever found the arrangement uncomfortable, well, that was that. So, think it over, there's no hurry, get back in touch, or just forget you ever met me.

And the countess? Was she, perhaps, also an, umm, "expert"?

From Henri, a sophisticated laugh. "My dear fellow! Please! That sort of thing, well, maybe in the movies."

So, at least the worm wasn't in on it.

Back at the Europejski-a visit to the new apartment lay still in the future-the countess exceeded herself. Led him to a delight or two that Uhl knew about but had never experienced; her turn to kneel on the carpet. Rapture. Another glass of champagne and further novelty. In time he fell back on the pillow and gazed up at the ceiling, elated and sore. And brave as a lion. He was a shrewd fellow-a single exchange with Henri, and that thousand zloty would see the countess through her difficulties for the next few months. But life never went quite as planned, did it, because Henri, not nearly so cheerful as the first time they'd met, insisted, really did insist, that the arrangement continue.

And then, in August, instead of Henri, a tall Frenchman called André, quiet and reserved, and much less pleased with himself, and the work he did, than Henri. Wounded, Uhl guessed, in the Great War, he leaned on a fine ebony stick, with a silver wolf's head for a grip.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 25 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 2, 2010

    Outstanding book, superb and well crafted writing, high intellectual Espionage in pre-WWII central and eastern europe

    This is one of the most well written books in this genre ever. Te depth of character development, the knowledge of the history of the sub-surface political and espionage intrigue is unparalleled.

    I warn readers to buy the audio books not the down loads from Barnes and Noble because I paid for one download but it was never delivered to my computer.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2008

    Back to Form

    Furst seems to be getting back to the great game of espionage, leaving the reluctant journalists to their own devices. Will remind most of the Polish Officer, but not as good as Night Soldiers.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2008

    The Spies of Warsaw; going through the motions

    I have read every one of Alan Furst's books concerning the period around WW II but have been very disappointed in the last two - The Foreign Correspondent and The Spies of Warsaw. For me, I most enjoyed the imagery and descriptions that made me feel as if I were in the locale of the story. As someone else wrote, "I could feel and taste the fog." <BR/><BR/>In each of the last two novels Furst has abandoned the rich, detailed descriptions which made his stories so enthralling. Rather it is as if, he starts a description and then says, "Dear reader, you can fill in the rest, I'm bored with writing this stuff." <BR/><BR/>The ending of the Spies of Warsaw represents a good example of his unwillingness to put the effort into this story that was routinely put into his earlier work. Overall, the latest story is a B-; the premise had real possibilities but the implementation was not up to the standards longtime readers have come to expect.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2012

    A Very Good Book

    Well written with great character and setting development as is usual in one of Alan Furst's novels. I've read them all because they are that good. If there is a complaint it would be that this particular story had only just gotten started by the time it ended. It is terribly short at only 200 pages and not really enough story time left after character and location histories. It seemed he might have rushed to complete this one. Though he is a good writer often with a great theme to work with, I will be more careful not to choose a book with so brief a story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2012

    Page Turner!

    Put the reader right in the action. One of Furst's best!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2011

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    brilliant

    Alan Furst is a genius

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Hardly a Page Turner

    "The Spies of Warsaw" is a fiction recounting the work of European spies in the months leading to WW11. The year is 1937 and Germany is secretly preparing to invade Poland.....

    The story is of Col. Jean- François Mercier, a French embassy's military attaché in Poland whose job is to handle routine diplomatic work and attend nightly social obligations. His position provides him with the perfect cover to obtain crucial information on Germany`s war plans. Behind the lines he covertly runs a small network of agents specializing in obtaining information on what the German command has planned for its industries. Edvard Uhl, a German Engineer, is Mercier's main contact and one of his most valuable informants.

    The plot evolves around Mercier and his dealings with both the Russians and the Germans. We have an abundance of low keyed and un-dramatic espionage creating a tone that is rather cold and impersonal. It reads more like a history book or a documentary.

    The main characters are well represented but the author tends to represent the Nazi and the French military in a keystone cop manner.

    This is hardly a page turner, the storyline is weak and lacks suspense but does captures the darkness of the time and brings forward some intriguing elements surrounding the exploits behind intelligence gathering. As we may expect with spy novels, there is always a need for a spicy romance, this one leaves no surprises, Mercier is smitten by the mysterious Anna Szarbek, a beautiful French lawyer of Polish parentage with uncertain loyalties and unclear ambitions....

    Although this novel is good, it is far from being my favourite of the year

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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