Monday, August 23, 2010
Review of The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst (Phoenix 2008)
Furst excels at weaving the humdrum of everyday life through a larger geopolitical story spanning a number of countries. And so it is with The Spies of Warsaw, which traces the convoluted life of Jean-Francois Mercier in the lead up to the Second World War, and his various dalliances and missions. The plotting is slow and ponderous at times, and occasionally a little clunky, but Furst works to draw the reader in and tug them along, and as with previous books the narrative is highly informative, detailing the place, social relations and politics of the era. The characterisation is, for the most part, excellent, though some of the Nazi thugs and French military personnel drift toward caricature at times. The story itself was quite muted and although the tension should have been ratcheted up at certain points, as Mercier undertook dangerous missions, the narrative really lacked an edge. The biggest let down, however, was the ending: the book very nearly sailing through the air as I read the last paragraph. In fact, it would have been a stronger end if that paragraph had been omitted. Overall, an enjoyable enough read, but not one of his best.