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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another masterly evocation of WW2 espionage
Alan Furst's elegantly-written novels about spies in World War II have become must-have acquisitions and Spies of the Balkans was no disappointment.

We find ourselves in Salonika in 1940, with Greece wondering if (when?) the Germans are going to invade. Costa Zannis is a former detective who now handles political cases, mingling with the international cast of...
Published on 18 July 2010 by A Common Reader

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Latest Furst
I have just finished reading Spies of the Balkins by Alan Furst. I did not find it as good as his earlier work.
I also read Olivia Manning's Balkan Trilogy which I found much more rewarding.
Published on 2 Dec 2010 by bobbo


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10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor research and complete lack of credibility of characters and story, 2 April 2011
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This review is from: Spies of the Balkans (Hardcover)
I bought this book on the strength of some very positive reviews both from amazon readers and the media. Do not repeat my mistake: this is a book poorly researched, so much so, that I very much doubt if the author has ever set foot on the streets of Salonika. His descriptions are mostly mistaken, both in respect to the main historical events but especially in the details, and for someone familiar with the city and its people, this book seems to be written by someone who has satisfied his curiosity by reading the wikipedia entry and proclaiming himself an expert. Although the writing is appealing, this cannot replace the lack of real understanding of the place, and though this book is a work of fiction, do not be fooled in believing that it offers any real sense of Salonika, Greece or the Balkans.

I also contest the claim in previous reviews that the quality of the story and the depth of the characters comes anywhere close to Le Carre. Perhaps it is attempting to copy the (less good examples of) Le Carre's story-lines, but the characters are paper-thin and the story simply not believable. It is a real pity as the time and the situation truly lend themselves to creating a captivating story but this would require more ambition and attention to detail. For anyone with superficial understanding of greek history of the era or indeed some appreciation of how a realistic greek character would behave this book is simply ludicrous if not plain irritating.

Do not buy this book if you are looking for any degree of authenticity in the historical and cultural context.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars over hyped under delivered, 23 Jan 2012
This review is from: Spies of the Balkans (Paperback)
Starts well then fades into rather tired cliches. All a bit predictable and obvious. Others of this genre are far better.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars malibu, 7 Aug 2011
This book fully evokes the atmosphere surrounding Continental Europe prior to the second WW with Hitlers troops on borders and the dread of knowing people /countries were going to be occupied a real thriller but not OTT
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of today's essential authors, 17 Sep 2010
This review is from: Spies of the Balkans (Hardcover)
Like other reviewers, I was really looking forward to the latest Furst, and was not disappointed. His settings are convincing, his plots not excessively complex, but all the while one feels the shadow of evil nearby. He describes terrible events through the awareness of his characters, and sets up Spies of the Balkans so that the possibility of further survival in Smyrna remains open.

Terrific stuff - I wish I hadn't already read all the others, because then I'd still have them to look forward to!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new Furst classic, 10 Aug 2010
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This review is from: Spies of the Balkans (Hardcover)
A new Alan Furst novel about the second world war approaching the Balkans, set in Thesalonika with a detective turned spy for his country laced with a developing love story which captures the "gathering storm" for Eastern Europe, as usual a gripping tale that seems to have been written 70 years ago.....
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The atmosphere...just the barest music of china and silverware - was privilege transcendent, 30 Mar 2012
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Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Spies of the Balkans (Paperback)
Espionage may be mere expediency in some cases, in others it is all a matter of who you know and who you can get to know. Alan Furst's spies are about to be trapped in Salonika as first the Italians and then the much more frightening Germans, fight their way down the map to the heart of Greece. By the time this happens the central protagonist of this novel, Costa Zannis, a police chief with a special political dimension, has already set up the route by which Jews might escape the fate of so many of their faith. How this is arranged and its extreme contingency is what this book is about. Those involved are often shady, often dependent on the money men, who may or may not be able/willing to smooth the path.

Zannis himself is a slippery character - a man with a penchant for serial relationships with women, the last of whom, Demetria, seems likely to be permanent. His knowledge of the world is profoundly marked by a degree of cunning and cynicism which does not go amiss among the people with whom he is forced to interact. It's very much a situation for the right man at the right time. The book ends just when it might seem to be getting more interesting, as the noose tightens on those wishing to escape a confrontation with the Germans. Zannis and Demetria make their getaway. Saving a handful of Jewish people from the holocaust looks like the most that could have been done from this viewpoint. The writing is excellent, at times quite atmospheric, but I somehow never really found myself engaged.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Echoes of Thermopylae - 4+, 28 Nov 2011
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Blue in Washington "Barry Ballow" (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Spies of the Balkans (Paperback)
"Spies of the Balkans" introduces a new protagonist in Constantine Zannis, an incorruptible "senior police official" in Salonika, capital of Greek Macedonia. As drawn by the always inventive author Alan Furst, Zannis is a paragon of principle and ingenuity with considerable authority and reputation in his city and country. He watches warily, with the rest of the Greek population, as Hitler's war machine works its way south into the Balkans and inevitably threatens his homeland. In the interim period, Salonika becomes a center for the espionage networks--Nazi. British and neutral--that must be controlled and used as much as possible to the benefit of the small Greek nation. Zannis goes from spy catcher to military officer (as the Italians make a clumsy attempt to invade Greece) to manager of a critical terminus for an escape network for German Jewish refugees. His writ jumps to direct espionage when he reluctantly joins forces with British intelligence to rescue a scientist critical to the Allied war effort who is hiding in Paris. Zannis is later sent into Yugoslavia to assist in a coup d'etat that could head off a Nazi takeover of the country and further threaten Greece.

Like every Alan Furst novel, "Spies of the Balkans" has great period interest, is entertaining from the first page and generally respects the intelligence of the reader. This book, for me, was effective in evoking the creeping menace of the war and the general feeling of helplessness that the Greeks and other Balkan peoples must have felt in the face of that threat. Also a plus here was what seemed to be a shift in the stature of the story's protagonist. In most of Furst's other books (if memory serves), the principals are men slightly outside the centers of power--often lone wolves. Always acting out of some personal code of honor, but generally without direct authority to effect the course of events. In "Spies of the Balkans", Constantine Zannis is a figure of real authority and influence and operates directly to make things happen or prevent them from happening. Zannis is also given a full-blown personal life in this story and has a range of feelings and perceptions that most previous Furst heroes did not enjoy. All of this is to the good, I think, enriching and validating his actions.

I'm not sure yet if I have any real criticisms of this book. If I did, I suppose it would center on Furst's endowment of Zannis with almost superhuman qualities at times. Zannis is so enterprising and heroic that there a couple of times in the story he comes close to being non-credible. But Furst's great narratives of Zannis' exploits, or at least the terrific narratives of the contexts that he operates in, overcome the reader's gut reaction of cynicism.

In any event, "Spies of the Balkans" is an excellent read. Probably more original and more complete than some of Furst's more recent novels. I'm a long-time fan of the writer and will continue to be. Recommended.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ordered by mistake, 19 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Spies of the Balkans (Hardcover)
I had meant to order 'Spies of Warsaw' but I ordered the wrong one by mistake. If I had ordered 'Spies of Warsaw' I would have persevered because I am interested in Warsaw and in Polish characters.

The book I received was a former library copy - a hard back with a protective plastic cover. If I had seen it in a library I would have flicked through it and put it down again. I am surprised that forty people have reviewed it.

It might seem rather unfair to review a book that you have not read properly. However I think that it is valid because I did start to read it. It just did not grab me.

Spies of Warsaw [DVD] was what I saw on TV. Although some elements of the plot seemed contrived, I thought the ending was particularly good.
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Spies of the Balkans
Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst (Paperback - 6 Jan 2011)
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