His main character Andre Szara grew on me until I found myself thinking, "Could I do what he did and maintain my essential self?" I'm still not sure.
The story starts slowly but gathers momentum like one of the trains that Szara rides all over Europe. How Furst manages to capture the essential Russian-ness or German-ness of the characters contributes to the magic of the story. Towards the end, I could not put the book down even at 2:30 AM.
I am sure you will enjoy this novel even if you are not a fan of spy stories.
nancy b. webb, June 12, 2010 (view all comments by nancy b. webb)
I have discovered Alan Furst this year and am getting a view of history that eluded me with nonfiction accounts of Europe and the pre WWII invasions. Mr. Furst creates a spine tingling tale and history at the same time. This story captures the seas of Europe and their casualties, ordinary merchant vessels that become extraordinary in times of war. I am smitten with the horrors and the mystifying quality of this war of neighbors, as close as Illinois and Missouri, yet different tongues and cultures. Ancient feuds that bring indifference or hate. And yet, the diversity of the crew of the merchant ship, the loyalty to itself as well as to their country and its allies.
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Random House Trade -
by The New York Times,
"A rich, deeply moving novel of suspense that is equal parts espionage thriller, European history and love story."
by San Francisco Chronicle,
"Compelling....An excellent novel of history, betrayal and, most important, survival....While the story offers enough twists and turns to satisfy the most ardent spy fan, author Alan Furst transcends genre. This is a novel with heart."
by The Boston Globe,
"This is a rich book, to be savored...for it is a work of an accomplished writer without obtrusively saying so on every other page. Furst has the instincts of the historian — he likes to get his sequences right, he tells a story straight, and he believes that setting matters — and the gifts of the storyteller."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Kafka, Dostoyevsky, and le Carré sit up all night and talk to each other and this is what you get. It is absolutely wonderful."
by Publishers Weekly,
"[I]ntelligent, provocative and gripping....Furst depicts the historical, geographic and political context in lucid and highly readable prose....His story is not a pretty one; but it is beautifully and compellingly told."
by Library Journal,
"Entertaining, exciting, and thought-provoking reading."
by Walter Shapiro, Time,
"Dark Star never becomes one of those breathless adventures that build fake suspense around schemes to stop Hitler. Plot is less important than Furst's powerful descriptive writing....What carries the book to a level beyond the cynicism of spy novels is its ability to carry us back in time. Nothing can be like watching Casablanca for the first time. But Furst comes closer than anyone has in years."
by Los Angeles Times Book Review,
"A page-churner of the best sort....Brilliant detail and sure sweep....Here is a thriller more deeply satisfying than much of the nonthrilling 'serious fiction' around today."
by Adam Woog, The Seattle Times,
"[Dark Star] explores the ambiguous moral ground familiar to readers of Graham Greene, Robert Stone, and le Carré....Terrific stuff — poignant, moving, provocative."
by Herbert Mitgang, The New York Times,
"The time-frame of the late 1930s on the Continent was once the special property of Eric Ambler and Graham Greene; Furst has ventured into their fictional territory and brought out a story that is equally original and engaging."
by Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered,
"One of the best spy novels I?ve read in years....The novel is impeccably researched. It?s as much historical fiction as it is spy fiction, and the atmosphere of danger and doom it creates by means of deftly employed historical details is matched only by the vividness of its mostly fictional characters. Dark Star doesn?t merely evoke the period. Because of its engaging plot and appealing hero, it makes you live there, suffer there, and hope."
by Nelson DeMille, author of The Gold Coast,
"Dark Star is as fine an evocation of prewar Europe as anything I?ve ever read. An extremely well written and literate novel that practically creates a new genre: historical espionage."
by Richard Condon, author of The Manchurian Candidate,
"Outclasses any spy novel I have ever read."
by Random House,
Paris, Moscow, Berlin, and Prague, 1937. In the back alleys of nighttime Europe, war is already under way. André Szara, survivor of the Polish pogroms and the Russian civil wars and a foreign correspondent for Pravda, is co-opted by the NKVD, the Soviet secret intelligence service, and becomes a full-time spymaster in Paris. As deputy director of a Paris network, Szara finds his own star rising when he recruits an agent in Berlin who can supply crucial information. Dark Star captures not only the intrigue and danger of clandestine life but the day-to-day reality of what Soviet operatives call special work.
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