"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Friday, January 08, 2016

Dark Star

TITLE: Dark Star
AUTHOR: Alan Furst

I finally finished this, one of Furst's early historical spy novels set during the time of World War II. In this novel, Andre Szara, a Polish Jew from Russia, is a Pravda journalist who has been co-opted to spy for the Soviet NKVD intelligence service. As a journalist, he can travel most anywhere in Europe without suspicion, making it easy for him to meet with couriers and run a network of agents. His work takes him to Berlin, Paris, even Poland during the German invasion. As with typical Furst protagonists, Szara is an ordinary man who rises to the occasion and manages to do extraordinary things, not the least of which, with some luck, is surviving. There are complications -- there are always complications -- and a lot of politics mixed in with the history, and enough theorizing to have me ready to pull out some history books to see how much is authorial speculation and how much of the secret machinations really happened.

Furst is one of the best when it comes to recreating the past and putting the reader right there in time and place. The book also typically is episodic, which made it too easy to put down. His books are not pageturners for me, but they are compelling, and his characters always get under my skin. Szara became a character I cared for very much.