Monday, January 28, 2013

Mission to Paris

Alan Furst

It is 1938 and the Hollywood actor Frederic Stahl has been sent to Paris, on loan from Warner Brothers to star in a French film. After attending a social event Stahl soon realizes that Paris is not as it was when he lived there as a young man. It appears that a lot of German money is being spread around to influential Parisians who can then create pro-German sentiments through social connections and newspaper articles in papers such as La Presse.

Stahl also comes to the conclusion that his presence in Paris is not as it seems, and a visit to the American embassy convinces him that there is an ulterior motive for his being sent to Paris. Members of the Ribbentropburo (Germany’s political warfare department) are anxious to meet Stahl to try to convince him to visit Berlin in the hope that his doing so will appear as pro-German sentiment from an American. But someone in the White House in Washington is funding a fact-gathering mission that eventually includes Stahl, and when his life is threatened he agrees to act as a liaison to gather information for the allies.

Mission to Paris is the twelfth novel in Alan Furst’s Night Soldiers series. Although the books can be read out of sequence, two of them—The World at Night and Red Gold—are connected by their main character and location. All of Furst’s historical spy novels are set throughout Europe prior to and during World War II.

Although they are fiction, many are based on factual occurrences and real people. Furst’s detailed knowledge of geographic locations is evident in his descriptions of waterfronts, rivers, mountain ranges,  and inner cities. One location and event is repeated in all of his books, and readers will be pleasantly surprised when they reach this place in his novels.

I have read eight of the novels and find that they leave me breathless waiting for the next chapter to begin, sometimes with my heart pounding as I race along with his characters through their perilous journeys. They are the best historical spy novels I have read in many years, even outpacing Graham Greene.

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