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3.9 out of 5 stars
Spies of the Balkans
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2012
As usual, Alan Furst has done a wonderful job of storytelling with superb writing. But the publisher (Phoenix, of the Orion Publishing Group) has done an atrocious job on the editing and proofreading, producing a book with numerous typographical errors... many dropped periods, for example, so that sentences don't end, they simply flow into the next one. Doesn't Phoenix/Orion bother to proofread anymore? When I buy a book, I expect a better product. What they've produced is an insult to us bookbuyers and readers, as well as to the author Furst.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 September 2010
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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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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
"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 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2014
The hero of this novel/thriller is one of the most sympathetic of Furst's gallery of brave men (and women).
The story is quite simple and logical - details can be found elsewhere.
I would really like to meet Zanis and his pals - and Frau Kleider - but feel they might find me a little dull!
The only drawback is the usual one with books written 60 years after the event - the characters are all able to make wise judgements about the future............
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2013
The characters are so believable.
Those pre war years were really an eye opener in Europe.
I'll be sorry when I've read them all.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 January 2012
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
on 4 January 2014
I enjoyed this, the tale of a Greek detective set against the beginnings of the Second World War and it's advance toward Greece.

The main character was likeable, and sets off at a good pace, but I did think it meandered later and I wasn't sure where the story would end up. Good stuff overall, and I shall be searching more of Furst.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 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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