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)
"Carroll, winner of the National Book Award for An American Requiem (1996) and the PEN/Galbraith Award for House of War (2006), both nonfiction, has also written numerous novels in multiple genres. Here he combines fact and fiction in a historical thriller. Carroll makes clear in an authors note that, while the “main characters and their story” are fictional, everything else in the book, centering on the treatment of Italian Jews during and after WWII, and including a Vatican plot called the “ratline,” which secretly relocated Nazi war criminals to Argentina, is based on fact. This authors note, which appears at the end of the novel, might have been better placed at the beginning, since what Carroll describes is so horrifying (as in details on a childrens concentration camp) as to seem fictional. The man who encounters this tangle of evil is David Warburg, sent to Rome by the U.S. War Refugee Board at the end of WWII to help bring aid to the European Jews arriving in Rome. Warburg has two guides to the inferno of postwar Rome: a woman Red Cross worker and a young American priest. Their efforts are met, first with bureaucratic roadblocks, and later with full-out betrayal. Carrolls depictions of the chaos in Rome, along with his insights into the Vatican ratline, are unforgettable. Recommend this utterly engaging thriller to fans of Joseph Kanons The Good German (2001) and James R. Benns Deaths Door (2012)."--Booklist, STARRED review "James Carroll has written a novel with the breathtaking pace of a thriller and the gravitas of a genuine moral center--as if John LeCarre and Graham Greene collaborated to produce Warburg in Rome
"—Mary Gordon, author of Pearl
and The Love of My Youth
"Carroll, who explored the history of Catholic anti-Semitism in the nonfiction account Constantines Sword, returns to this theme with a suspenseful historical drama set in Rome at the end of WWII and centering on Vatican complicity in the flight of Nazi fugitives to Argentina. David Warburg, a U.S. Treasury Department lawyer, is sent to the city to organize the War Refugee Board, a front for aiding Jewish refugees and helping to create their hoped-for homeland in Palestine. While in Rome, Warburg meets ruthless OSS counterintelligence head Col. Peter Mates, who is opposing Soviet domination of Central Europe through covert means. Warburg and Mates draw Father Kevin Deane, an American priest, and Marguerite dErasmo, a French-Italian Red Cross worker, into their plans, not realizing that both have hidden allegiances and motives. As Carroll cleverly weaves these characters among an assortment of liars, schemers, and charlatans, one character sums it all up: “None of us here is innocent.” While high-placed Catholic officials aid escaped war criminals, other factions seek revenge for wartime brutality, and still others begin the bloody struggle for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. And at the heart of all the treachery, murder, and tragedy is the Eternal City."--Publishers Weekly
"A well-paced thriller from longtime Vatican watcher Carroll (Crusade, 2004, etc.) set in post-World War II Rome, with the Catholic Church athwart a tangle of scandalous politics and incriminating deeds.
"Sanctuary, Sister, is for the guilty. We may not like it, but there it is." So remarks an American monsignor, Kevin Deane, whos working to provide relief to Italian Jews, even as others in the Vatican are seeking to extend that sanctuary to their Nazi persecutors. Into this conflict comes refugee coordinator David Warburg, a confidant of Henry Morgenthau, who has warned him that "[o]nce Mark Clark captures it, Rome will be the nerve center and the escape hatch both." If Morgenthau only knew how deeply tunneled that escape hatch was….Helping Warburg—or is she?—is a Red Cross worker named Marguerite dErasmo, who "came of age as if she were a nun" but who has hidden resources, to say nothing of secrets. Marguerite is a person of faith much shaken, for this is a time in which "the Madonna seemed indifferent to everyone but her Son," while Warburg is a coolly efficient explorer of the surprising alleys his quest takes him down—not just the Vatican "ratline" that sweeps Nazis out of the path of the conquering Allies (Rome, as Warburg sees it, is "halfway between Vienna and Buenos Aires"), but also a complex storyline that finds highly placed elements within the Vatican opposing Jewish immigration to Palestine on the grounds that by doing so, they are helping to preserve the Holy Land, even as others are aligned with the revived cause of Zionism. Carroll blends a solid command of modern history with a sense for the varieties of evil that have inhabited it—not just the villains, but also the bureaucrats who have self-servingly helped them along and the apologists who have made the world safe for both classes of people.
Though without the white-knuckle tension of Graham Greenes The Third Man, a yarn thats of a piece with it—and a worthy successor."--Kirkus Reviews
"Warburg In Rome creates the atmosphere of a thriller with deeply serious historical undertones - the immediate aftermath of the German occupation of Rome. And the laying down of the infamous ratlines that allowed Nazi principals to escape allied capture with aid from the church. And Roosevelt's belated plan to save Jews still in Nazi territory. That's the history part. Fiction enters with a main character named David Warburg, a secular American Jew from northern New England. Roosevelt has charged him with directing the U.S. War Refugee Board and sends him on a mission to Rome, just after the Nazi retreat. Plenty of other strong characters gather around Warburg - some to help and some to disrupt. There's American priest, whom New York's ambitious Cardinal Spellman has assigned to advance his purposes, while in Rome and 24-year-old Marguerite DErasmo, a half-French, half-Italian beauty, whom Warburg finds both attractive and useful for his own plans. She's been working in tandem with a group of resisting priests and local Jewish leaders to save the lives of Jews still in fascist captivity. A long struggle ensues to find justice and love in the wake of the war. But the novel remains consistently entertaining, never didactic - even as a reader moves along, hip-deep in the history of the period."Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered
"Former priest Carroll (An American Requiem) returns with this complex and compelling novel of the Vatican and morality during World War II. The happenings here are dark indeed, and its often difficult to believe that the novel is based on real-life events. Lawyer David Warburg comes to Rome to help set up and direct the new U.S. War Refugee Board, an effort that aims to help European Jews rebuild their lives as the war comes to a close. In the course of his humanitarian work, he meets Marguerite dErasmo, a Red Cross worker who is motivated by much more than meets the eye. Soon David learns of the Vatican ratline, a system that the Church used to smuggle Nazi war criminals to safety in Argentina. No longer sure whom to trust, he turns to U.S. Intelligence, only to find that the ratline isnt much of a secret after all. VERDICT This is a fresh look at a scandalous chapter of history, and one that reminds us that even when the war was over, the horrors were not. Sensitive readers should beware, as there are some graphic and extremely unsettling scenes. This book deserves a wide readership, and should especially appeal to readers interested in political and religious history."--Library Journal
"James Carrolls 'Warburg in Rome' has many of the ingredients of a great spy thriller: a high-stakes battle between good and evil; a plot full of twists and turns; a cultural capital both seductive and corrupt; characters caught in ethical thickets; and a moment of existential crisis when all the worlds troubles seem to converge on a single point on the map, bringing out the best and the worst in all who happen to find themselves at the fractured center of civilization."--The Boston Globe "A gripping political thriller set in a world of troubling moral complexity."--WBUR
From the author of the New York Times
best-selling Constantines Sword, a novel set in post-World War II Rome, where the fate of recently liberated Jews and the Churchs dark wartime secrets intertwine
David Warburg, newly minted director of the U.S. War Refugee Board, arrives in Rome at wars end, determined to bring aid to the destitute European Jews streaming into the city. Marguerite dErasmo, a French-Italian Red Cross worker with a shadowed past, is initially Warburgs guide to a complicated Rome; while a charismatic young American Catholic priest, Monsignor Kevin Deane, seems equally committed to aiding Italian Jews. But the city is a labyrinth of desperate fugitives, runaway Nazis, Jewish resisters, and criminal Church figures. Marguerite, caught between justice and revenge, is forced to play a double game. At the center of the maze, Warburg discovers one of historys great scandals—the Vatican ratline, a clandestine escape route maintained by Church officials and providing scores of Nazi war criminals with secret passage to Argentina. Warburgs disillusionment is complete when, turning to American intelligence officials, he learns that the dark secret is not so secret, and that even those he trusts may betray him.
James Carroll delivers an authoritative, stirring novel that reckons powerfully with the postwar complexities of good and evil in the Eternal City.
About the Author
was raised in Washington, D.C., and ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1969. He served as a chaplain at Boston University from 1969 to 1974, then left the priesthood to become a writer. A distinguished scholar-
in-residence at Suffolk University, he is a columnist for the Boston Globe and a
regular contributor to the Daily Beast.
His critically admired books include Practicing Catholic, the National Book Award-winning An American Requiem, House of War, which won the first PEN/Galbraith Award, and the New York Times bestseller Constantines Sword, now an acclaimed documentary.
Table of Contents
1. The Name 1
2. The Files 9
Part I: War
1. A Mighty Endeavor 17
2. Master of Ceremonies 41
3. Handkerchief 71
4. Intercedite Pro Nobis 97
5. A Jews Fantasy 127
6. Cleopatras Needle 163
Part II: Post War
7. Road Out 191
8. Reds 223
9. Obbedienza 253
10. Nakam Means Revenge 283
11. Ratline 311
12. Vieni! Come! 343
Authors Note 363