"MIDNIGHT IN EUROPE," by Alan Furst, Random House, $27, 272 pages (f)
In “Midnight in Europe,” author Alan Furst returns to the uncertain days of 1938, a period that has provided the backdrop for several of his spy thrillers.
Cristián Ferrar is a Spanish emigre lawyer living in Paris during the height of the Spanish Civil War. Though he wanted to fight against the fascist forces of Francisco Franco, he remained in France to take care of his parents and siblings. When he is approached to help the Spanish republic in other ways, however, he quickly agrees and soon finds himself trying to secure arms for his comrades.
Mixing with several less-than-reputable characters, and perusing a noble Spanish widow who may have her own agenda, Ferrar's mission takes him across the continent of Europe. Ferrar soon has to deal with corrupt Polish bureaucrats, Nazi policemen, Russian gangsters and the Italian navy, even as the republic's chances appear to thin.
“Midnight in Europe” is a fast-paced, engaging story that humanizes the pre-war years in a marvelous way and highlights the sad Spanish tragedy of the period. Ferrer is no James Bond. Instead, Furst's protagonist is an everyman, weighing the needs of his family and profession against the pull of his conscience, and is but the first of many richly created characters that populate this novel.
A tense thriller and a wonderful historical tale, this novel will delight Furst's die-hard fans and no doubt convert many more. With “Midnight in Europe,” Furst has once again proven his status as a master of character-driven spy fiction.
“Midnight in Paris” does contain some instances of violence, as well as brief sexual situations and strong language.
Cody K. Carlson holds a master's in history from the University of Utah and teaches at Salt Lake Community College. An avid player of board games, he blogs at thediscriminatinggamer.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org