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by Alan Furst

Pub Date: June 10th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6949-1
Publisher: Random House

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.