The Spies of Warsaw

The Spies of Warsaw

by Alan Furst


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812977370
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/09/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 282,598
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.63(d)

About the Author

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.


Sag Harbor, New York

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


B.A., Oberlin College

Read an Excerpt


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?


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.

What People are Saying About This

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

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Spies of Warsaw 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
ortho More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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."

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."

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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Mergatroy More than 1 year ago
Put the reader right in the action. One of Furst's best!
xenarox14 More than 1 year ago
Alan Furst is a genius
Tigerpaw70 More than 1 year ago
"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
dougwood57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great news has arrived for those fans of Alan Furst who thought he mailed in his last work, The Foreign Correspondent: A Novel. The master of the historical spy novel is back at the top of his game in The Spies of Warsaw. Furst centers his story in Warsaw, the scene of some his best writing and the return is triumphal. The typical Furst protagonist is the ordinary man of above-average principles, thrust by accident of history into the dangerous interstices of inter-war Europe. This time, however, our man is one Jean-Francois Mercier, decorated hero of the Great War and wounded veteran of the Polish victory in the 1920 Battle of Warsaw - the Miracle at the Vistula - and new military attaché at the French embassy and a professional spook. Mercier runs an agent who works as engineer in an armaments company Germany, but who also develops a taste for Warsaw honey and promptly falls into the honey trap. By indirect route that leads to a one-sided vendetta against Mercier of which he is the unknowing target. Mercier falls in lust early in the book, but later finds himself fully in love while he continues to troll for secrets and potential agents. His work leads him into several adventures in which the risks of failure range from embarrassing to deadly. Furst brilliantly recreates the atmosphere of pre-war days - the end of happiness and hope. Mercier's attempts for even a brief mental respite from the looming NAZI threat are futile; the reminders everywhere. His description of the formal dining room at a Warsaw party in the city's finest hotel puts the reader in the room: the "sheen of the damask tablecloth, the heavy silver, and the gold-rimmed china glowed in the light of a dozen candelabra". Details to delight. A trip to Paris includes the now-obligatory Furstian visit to Brasserie Heininger and a peak at the infamous bullet hole in the mirror of Table 14. We learn that Mercier is a fan of Georges Simenon and Stendhal. Mercier struggles to help France resist the NAZI's in the coming war that palpably hangs over Europe and every page in the book. As he learns, however, there are those in France who view Soviet Russia as the true enemy and Nazi Germany as potential allies. Moreover, intelligence that questions accepted wisdom, in this case of Marshal Petain and the ruling clique in the military, is seldom welcome. The books powerful ending leaves the reader angry and impotent. Highest recommendation.
Periodista on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is it? I guess you really have to be into Nazi porn. The appeal of these Furst books must just be atmosphere. It's well written. The plot, such as it is, is tissue thin: a French major and spy chief stationed in Warsaw discovers the Germans are building and testing artillery that will easily overcome France's defenses. The major's discoveries are ignored, he gets his woman and so WW2--in Europe, that is--could have been avoided. That's it.I've just been in Asia too long and know too much (and really not that much) about French imperial history in Asia to ever find a French military character a hero figure. And one aligned with the insatiable DeGaulle. What's one million Vietnamese starved to death in 1945 alone as long as the empire is saved? This book is taking place in the late 1930s--a decade of terrible famine in Vietnam, a brutal crackdown on a widespread rebellion, decimation of the VNQDD national party, slavery in rubber plantations, French colons sending postcards of piles of guillotined heads. I think anyone familiar with the French history in Africa would read it with the same eye-roll. Moreover at times, our major thinks fleetingly of alternative postings in warmer climes. I think he had previously been in Beirut, the Levant. (It's an airport novel, the details slip away quickly.) But some of us then think of what the warmer climes under French rule were like. Ah, say, South Pacific islands under the French. Vietnamese plantation laborers, working off their head taxes for decades on end and their kids don't get any schooling either. That's the life, when the dark skins knew their place. As someone said about the Master and Commander books or movie, or that awful English Patient movie, you can *hint* that there's an alternative point of viewOn the positive side is that you get a feel for the mix of nationalities and political allegiances in Warsaw at this time. Notably the Jewish Russian spies who turn sides when they're called home for the purge trials. You get little sense of the extreme politics of France of the period.
p_linehan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is much shorter than Dark Star, the last Furst novel I read. It's a gripping story. I read it in one day on a three-hop trip from Harrisburg to Reno. The ending is bittersweet. But I like that the hero always gets his love in the end.
pwoodford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love Alan Furst's noir stories about WWII Europe and the men and women who did what they could to sabotage the Nazis, but this novel seemed formulaic. I particularly disliked the little historical lesson/wrap-up at the end. People who read these novels have a good knowledge of history, I believe, and would not be surprised to learn that Hitler invaded France, or that the French military men who saw it coming were ignored by complacent superiors.
marilynr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent addition by Alan Furst with Mercier and his work with Polish Spies.
saskreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't generally read spy novels, but this one seemed intriguing, and I'm glad I read it. It was a quick read populated with interesting characters, and the mood and setting of Europe on the brink of WWII was superbly captured. This book had so many detailed scene descriptions, I almost felt like I was watching a movie, and perhaps this would, in fact, make a good movie.
johnleague on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
No one plays "What if?" better than Alan Furst.What if the Wehrmacht high command had managed to assassinate Hitler in 1937 (Kingdom of Shadows)? What if the British had crippled shipping up the Danube to choke off Hitler's supply of Balkan oil (Blood of Victory)? Better than that, though, Furst wonders aloud how it could have been done. You know the outcome--Furst isn't Harry Turtledove--but you read on anyway, hoping against history for success and an early end to the Nazis.In his latest, The Spies of Warsaw, Furst wonders what if the French military had taken seriously the potential for German attack through Belgium. The spectacular failure of the Maginot Line was clearly a failure of strategy and imagination, but Furst rightly damns it as a failure of arrogance and a determination to read only those parts of intelligence that fit within a preconceived construct of the world. (Sound familiar?)In Colonel Mercier, we have a typically Furstian character. Patriotic but jaded, resourceful but wary, cognizant of the inevitability of war but bent on preventing (or fighting) the spread of fascism. Mercier is in a unique stage of life for a Furst character: he is a widower. This adds an autumnal quality to The Spies of Warsaw that is entirely appropriate.My one complaint is that I wish the book had been longer. One cannot expect the length of Blood of Victory or Dark Star (which I just started reading) from Furst every time out, and I realize that the book ends in the most appropriate place--after its climax, everything that follows until June 1940 (when Germany invades France) is inevitable. But the epilogue describing de Gaulle's flight to resistance and Petain's acquiescence seemed on first reading like short shrift. It was distasteful, but that might be what Furst was going for here.
MargaSE on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great favourite,his books are great mood pieces of Europe at the start of WWII
kylenapoli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have yet to dislike anything Furst has written, including the early stuff he has since disavowed. This one, however, seems to lack momentum. Perhaps that's appropriate for a plot that revolves around bureaucratic stasis, but as a result "Spies" does not rise to the top of my personal Furst rankings. Nevertheless, enjoyable, and I'm ready for the next one.
kingsportlibrary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pre World War II spy story set in dark surroundings with just too many characters. Slow development & predictible ending.
ZachMontana on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable quick read with nice development of places and feeling of the time.
DeltaQueen50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Author Alan Furst has written a number of excellent European espionage stories set during the years leading up to World War II, and The Spies of Warsaw is another outstanding contribution. Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier, as the new military attaché to the French embassy in Warsaw, in involved daily in political intrigue in this Polish city that is at the crossroads of Germany, Russia and Eastern Europe. Piecing together tidbits of information acquired from an informer, he comes to understand that Nazi Germany are drawing up plans to invade France, and these plans have no interest in the Maginot Line upon which France rests her security. Of course convincing his superiors that this is more than a deliberate mislead on the part of the Germans is actually much more difficult than actually acquiring the information. The powers-that-be consider France invincible from invasion due to both the Maginot Line and geography.A small story but beautifully drawn and told. Suspense is built slowly, but the author never goes overboard, content to foreshadow the dark threat that is coming to Europe. The main character is a quiet yet patriotic man who does his job with intelligence and courage. Side stories shed light on what Warsaw was like during these years of 1937-1938.Accurate period detail, rich characterization, and a taunt and compact plot have been blended together by this author to produce an atmospheric and compelling book.
Doondeck on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've only read one other book by Furst. But in both the flavor of the locale comes through so well. The characters are believable and well developed. Europe at this time was such a complicated and frightening place. Furst does a great job in describing it.
Michaenite on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Few writers can capture the disturbing transition of Europe from the 1930s to the 1940s. Romance, old traditions, old alliances and the social order were all uprooted by the coming of the war. The uneasy peace after the first world war resulted in an even greater horror. The futile efforts of Polish, Russian and French spies to halt the Nazi menace form the plot of this lively and entertaining novel. The excellent character development of the protagonist and his steady and noble work allow the reader to care about him and his times. The work is a special treat on cd because the reader is so talented.
readafew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Spies of Warsaw was a well written and interesting book. However, in trying to summarize the plot, I've had a hard time. While the book was enjoyable, easy to read, and kept ones attention, the plot was rather meandering. Was is a spy novel? yes, in that the main character was technically a spy. Was it a political mystery? Not really, we already know what happens in the end. Was it a love story? No, there is a love interest, but that is only a useful prop. Was it a story of revenge? Nope. Was it a story of Espionage? Once again, No. As close as I can get is, it was a story about a French military attache assigned to Warsaw a couple years before WWII and how he lived his life and tried to do the best he could. Really this book was a collection of mini plot arcs. In spite of all that, I found it to be an engaging book, that really helps one get a feel for the time and place it was taking place.This book takes place mostly in and around Warsaw before WWII, with some trips to a few other places, such as Paris, and Germany. We follow Mercier, the French attache to Warsaw who has recently been assigned there, as he goes about doing his job, both the public and private aspects. Great Story.
jvega210 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Let me start by saying I read this as a book club selection, not as an avid history buff. The main character of the novel is the possiblity of war. While Mercier's character is well developed, other characters were not as well developed. Many of the story lines that you expect to go somewhere, do not (the woman in the shower, his cousin Albertine, Voss' fate!!). After you do start to associate with Mercier, the book wraps up the remainder of his life in four sentences. As someone who is not well versed in WWII history, I did struggle to understand the significance of several situations. I felt I had to have a laptop with the internet when reading the book. He does use random detail that was intriguing but borderline useless. For instance, his noting that Mercier sat in a chair in the hotel lobby with a pillar on one side and a potted palm on the other. The end seemed anticlimatic, but the book seemed to be want to read as a non-fiction, rather than have the plot twists and turns of a fiction.
DarkRonin More than 1 year ago
Furst is a master of the atmospheric spy thriller. He spares the reader the minutia and the erudite interjection. If you want a historian’s chronology of Poland ruled by Sanacja, a picture of Poland right before the catastrophe of 1939, reach for a book by Neal Ascherson or Norman Davies. Furst, however, does manipulate the levers of reader’s imagination; paints a few details and leaves a lot covered in sfumato. He has done it again in The Spies of Warsaw, proving that his initial success was not a mere flash of brilliance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alan Furst’s book The Spies of Warsaw described the hard life of Edvard Uhl. Uhl was a working class man who had to turn to espionage to provide for himself and his so-called love, Sczelenska. He was working for the Germans helping manufacture tanks. The espionage group sees this as a source for information. The information that he provided wasn’t helpful in the long run. Mercier, a member of the espionage group is determined to find Hitler’s plans to take over Europe. The story’s pace then speeds up when Mercier decides to find the plans.  Furst does an excellent job developing the wide variety of characters. The characters range from Poland spies, Nazi officers, French producers to Bulgarian fishermen. He did not make the story flow. I jumped from the Bulgarian National Union marching to people ordering oysters in Paris. To understand the book you had to look at the small things that are easy to glance over. The book did however keep you on edge, the next event in the story was a mystery. The characters were very deceiving they seemed to play a very large role in the book but many turned out to be nothing more than filler characters. The book overall was very interesting if you like World War II.