Spies of Warsaw

First, Alan. Spies of Warsaw. New York: Random House, 2008.

Reason read: Furst was born in February; read in his honor.

The year is 1937 and German-born engineer, Edvard Uhl, finds himself caught up in smuggling German industrial plans relating to armament and arms. Like joining a gang, Edvard is drawn deeper and deeper into the fold. The tightening entanglement causes Uhl to become more and more paranoid about being exposed. But how to get out? This is how The Spies of Warsaw begins but it is not about Edvard. He is just a pawn; one little cog in the world of espionage. The real protagonist is Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier, military attaché to the French Embassy. War is eminent and the stakes couldn’t be higher in the struggle for intel. Mercier, familiar with war as a decorated 1914 veteran, must make his moves carefully. One never knows who is counterintelligence and who is an ally. Who is a betrayer? In the midst of the political drama, Furst gives Mercier a love interest. Anna’s role is not to lighten the story but to add another layer of tension and mystery. While the book only covers seven months before World War II, the shadowy sense of place is heavy across Poland, Germany, and France.
As an aside, I particularly liked the train scenes: travelers waiting on the platform with the falling snow and paranoia circling in equal amounts.

Author fact: Furst has been compared to John le Carre.

Book trivia: Spies of Warsaw was made into a television drama for the BBC

Nancy said: Pearl said Furst’s novels are “great for their splendid sense of place – World War II Eastern Europe” (p 183).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Polish Up Your Polish” (p 181).


Polish Officer

Furst, Alan. The Polish Officer. Read by George Guidall. New York: Recorded Books, 2005.

Alexander de Milja has been offered a miraculous choice. With Poland on the brink of surrender to the Germans, he has a decision to make: stay in the Polish army as Captain and serve on the battlefield (a guaranteed suicide) or join an underground Polish resistance group Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej. No brainer. His first mission is to secure a successful route for Poland’s Gold Reserve to the safety of England via a refugee train headed for Bucharest. Later, in Paris de Milja poses as a Russia poet. Still later he is a Slovakian coal merchant. This is at a time when the war was filled with uneasy partnerships and extremely unstable alliances. How anybody trusted anyone else is a mystery. Even though it was everyman for himself, de Milja infiltrated a variety of groups and formed key relationships which helped him keep his disguises believable. The women embedded in the resistance were the most interesting to me.

As an aside, reading this now is perfect timing. It fits in with Maus, Maus II, and The Wild Blue – all books about World War II I’ve read in the last two months.

Reason read: Furst’s birthday is in February.

Author fact: I have read in numerous places that Alan Furst is the “next” Graham Greene. I would agree they are similar.

Book trivia: As far as I know this hasn’t been made into a movie. If it isn’t, it should.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “World War II Fiction” (p 253).