Furst among equals,
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This review is from: Kingdom Of Shadows (Paperback)
The enigmatic world of espionage sixty and seventy years ago has attracted a number of novelists: Eric Ambler set standards that have been aspired to, but not often matched, by such as Philip Kerr and David Downing more recently. The problem is, research can only go so far. By contrast, Alan Furst seems to have thought himself into the feel, the sounds and the smells of the era.
Kingdom of Shadows has Furst's favourite city, Paris, as its focal point, but it ranges across Europe in a series of tense episodes as the continent progresses unstoppably towards World War Two. Credibility of place extends to credibility of character. Nicholas Morath, the central figure, is a Hungarian emigré torn between duty to his country and the women he loves: the Argentine hedonist Cara, and the vulnerable Mary Day - also easily believable portraits. Morath's ambiguous uncle, Count Janos von Polanyi de Nemeszvar, is a memorable string-puller from the wings.
This may not be Aan Furst at his supreme best - the tale's episodic nature and the only half-fulfilled ending militate against a fifth star - but it still overshadows most of its rivals.