A historical spy novel that takes the reader back to the 1930s, when Europe hurtled toward the abyss.
The dashing Austrian-born actor Frederic Stahl returns to France from Hollywood to film the movie Après la Guerre. On loan from Warner Bros., he’ll star as a soldier who survives The Great War and personifies its futility. All Stahl wants is to do his job on the movie set, have a pleasant dalliance or three and return to the States. But the Nazis have other ideas. Germany’s goal in the ’30s is to weaken France’s will to fight. Germans infiltrate French society; citizens of both countries form alliances for peace while Germany quietly gathers all the intelligence it can about French military preparedness. Wouldn’t Frederic Stahl like to come back to Austria to judge a movie competition? One day, good pay, and he’d be in the limelight promoting both German filmmaking and the Reich itself. Repulsed, Stahl declines. Nazis increasingly pressure him to reconsider until his life is in danger. How can he finish the movie and return—no, escape—to America? Furst doesn’t make it easy on his hero, spinning strand on strand in a web of tension that’s big enough to hold a lot of victims. Will the web snare Stahl and his lover? The seductive Soviet spy? The resentful waiter? The Hungarian count? No one is safe, but readers will care about all the characters, whether wanting them to survive or die. They all either live under the cloud of doom that gathers over Europe, or they are part of the cloud. Furst conveys a strong sense of the era, when responding to a knock might open the door to the end of one’s days.
The novel recalls a time when black and white applied to both movies and moral choices. It’s a tale with wide appeal.