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Mission to Parisby Alan Furst
Synopses & Reviews
It is the late summer of 1938, Europe is about to explode, the Hollywood film star Fredric Stahl is on his way to Paris to make a movie for Paramount France. The Nazis know he's coming — a secret bureau within the Reich Foreign Ministry has for years been waging political warfare against France, using bribery, intimidation, and corrupt newspapers to weaken French morale and degrade France's will to defend herself.
For their purposes, Fredric Stahl is a perfect agent of influence, and they attack him. What they don't know is that Stahl, horrified by the Nazi war on Jews and intellectuals, has become part of an informal spy service being run out of the American embassy in Paris.
From Alan Furst, the bestselling author, often praised as the best spy novelist ever, comes a novel that's truly hard to put down. Mission to Paris includes beautifully drawn scenes of romance and intimacy, and the novel is alive with extraordinary characters: the German Baroness von Reschke, a famous hostess deeply involved in Nazi clandestine operations; the assassins Herbert and Lothar; the Russian film actress and spy Olga Orlova; the Hungarian diplomat and spy, Count Janos Polanyi; along with the French cast of Stahl's movie, German film producers, and the magnetic women in Stahl's life, the socialite Kiki de Saint-Ange and the émigré Renate Steiner.
But always at the center of the novel is the city of Paris, the heart and soul of Europe — its alleys and bistros, hotels grand and anonymous, and the Parisians, living every night as though it was their last. As always, Alan Furst brings to life both a dark time in history and the passion of the human hearts that fought to survive it.
"Alan Furst's writing reminds me of a swim in perfect water on a perfect day, fluid and exquisite. One wants the feeling to go on forever, the book to never end. Such is it with this historical spy novel. From September 1938 to January 1939, the reader vividly lives through Paris's last stormy breaths of freedom before Germany's attack in 1940. Our unlikely hero is Frederick Stahl, 40, a handsome American movie star, not an action figure but everyone's favorite silver screen doctor or uncle or romantic leading man. Warner Bros. loans Stahl out to make a picture in Paris. He likes Paris, and he likes keeping Jack Warner happy. But there's a little known fact in his past that the Nazis can make much of — born in Vienna, Stahl worked as a gopher for the Austrian legation in Barcelona at the end of WWI, and Austria had been an ally of Germany. So when officials in Germany's political warfare department discover Stahl will be in their sphere of influence, they alert their Paris section to put him on 'the list' to be used. From movie studios to embassies, from parties with the untouchably wealthy to a sexy love affair with a sophisticated emigre living in a tenement, Stahl finds himself caught between those who believe France must rearm to fight Germany, and those who are desperate for a negotiated peace. When Stahl refuses to support 'peace,' the Nazi threats begin. To retaliate, he becomes a secret U.S. courier, bravely carrying hundreds of thousands of Swiss francs into Germany and Morocco to exchange for intelligence about the Nazis. Reading Furst is the next best thing to having been in Berlin: 'Uniforms everywhere.... This country was already at war, though enemy forces had yet to appear, and Stahl could sense an almost palpable violence that hung above the city like a mist.' Like Graham Greene, Furst creates believable characters caught up, with varying degrees of willingness, in the parade of political life. And because they care, the reader does, too. And like Lee Child, Furst captures personality with insightful brush strokes: Stahl's father had 'a face like an angry prune.' Long on an ability to translate good research into great reading, Furst has only two downsides: although threats escalate, little comes of them, and when Stahl takes risks, they tend to deflate. For example, Stahl insists he's honor-bound to pursue the Nazis who've stolen the film crew's cameras, but he ends up waiting in a rowboat with a gun while others do the dangerous work offstage. And when the woman he loves is held in Budapest for interrogation, Stahl's solution is to use his box-office status to get her a visa at the U.S. embassy, then phones the William Morris Agency in hopes his agent can come up with an exit strategy. Still, my complaints are minor compared to the breadth and realized ambition of this seductive novel. Furst is one of the finest spy novelists working today, and, from boudoir to the beach, Mission to Paris is perfect summer reading. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (June) Gayle Lynds, the cofounder with David Morrell of International Thriller Writers and ThrillerFest, is the author of The Book of Spies (St. Martin's, 2010)." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The writing in Mission to Paris, sentence after sentence, page after page, is dazzling. If you are a John le Carré fan, this is definitely a novel for you." James Patterson
"I am a huge fan of Alan Furst. Furst is the best in the business — the most talented espionage novelist of our generation." Vince Flynn
"Reading Mission to Paris is like sipping a fine Chateau Margot: Sublime!" Erik Larson
"This is the romantic Paris to make a tourist weep....The brilliant historical flourishes seem to create — or recreate — a world....In Furst's densely populated books, hundreds of minor characters — clerks, chauffeurs, soldiers, whores — all whirl around his heroes in perfect focus for a page or two, then dot by dot, face by face, they vanish, leaving a heartbreaking sense of the vast Homeric epic that was World War II and the smallness of almost every life that was caught up in it." The New York Times Book Review
"Alan Furst again shows why he is a grandmaster of the historical espionage genre. Furst not only vividly re-creates the excitement and growing gloom of the City of Light in 1938-39, as war with Nazi Germany looms, but also demonstrates a profound knowledge of the political divisions and cultural sensibilities of that bygone era....As summer or subway reading goes, it doesn't get more action-packed and grippingly atmospheric than this." The Boston Globe
"Between them, Fredric and Paris make this a book no reader will put down to the final page. Furst evokes the city and the prewar anxiety with exquisite tension that is only a bit relieved by Fredric's encounters with several women, each a vivid and attractive character. Critics compare Furst to Graham Greene and John le Carré, but the time has come for this much-published author (this is his ninth World War II novel after Spies of the Balkans) to occupy his own pinnacle as a master of historical espionage." Library Journal (starred review)
"Furst conveys a strong sense of the era, when responding to a knock might open the door to the end of one's days. The novel recalls a time when black and white applied to both movies and moral choices. It's a tale with wide appeal." Kirkus (starred review)
"[Furst] is most at home in Paris, which is why legions of his fans, upon seeing only the title of his latest book, will immediately feel pulses quicken....Furst has been doing this and doing it superbly for a long time now....Long ago Furst made the jump from genre favorite to mainstream bestsellerdom; returning to his signature setting, Paris, he only stands to climb higher." Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
Alan Furst is widely recognized as the master of the historical spy novel. Now translated into eighteen languages, he is the author of Night Soldiers, Dark Star, The Polish Officer, The World at Night, Red Gold, Kingdom of Shadows, Blood of Victory, Dark Voyage, The Foreign Correspondent, The Spies of Warsaw, and Spies of the Balkans. Born in New York, he lived for many years in Paris, and now lives on Long Island.
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