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Spies of the Balkans by [Furst, Alan]
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Spies of the Balkans Kindle Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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As delicately crafted as John le Carre at the height of his George Smiley years, it is a delight from first page to last... Seductive, unexpectedly sexy... it's told with an elegance that reverberates long after it's finished: it is quite superb (Geoffrey Wansell DAILY MAIL - 25 June 2010)

It's classic Furst - elegantly written, faultlessly researched, full of lovely details... Excellent. (THE GUARDIAN - 26 June 2010)

Furst's characters have the foibles, frailties and fears of humanity under pressure... it is a thriller but with real people and real history. I cannot wait for my next Furst. (Denis MacShane MP Minister for the Balkans 2001-05 THE INDEPENDENT - 2 July 2010)

enthralling evocation of the Balkans in 1940... A dark, frightening, instructive tale. (Jessica Mann LITERARY REVIEW)

intensely cinematic... the visual texture is rich and the Furst-world closes around the reader with an agreeable chill from the outset (TLS)

The literary style belies a deftly paced plot in an old-fashioned spy thriller more reminiscent of John Le Carré and Graham Greene than Ian Fleming. Highly recommended. (THE IRISH TIMES)


'The spy writer Alan Furst's mastery of the passions and politics of the Second World War is again in thrilling evidence here.' SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 'A wonderfully atmospheric and satisfying book' CATHOLIC HERALD 'This is a brilliant book and highly recommended. Furst's novel set in 1940s Salonika is a wonderful, captivating, spy thriller with a keen sense of place and history.' TELEGRAPH & ARGUS 'Furst is surely a unique voice and talent in the mystery field' -- Mike Ripley DEADLY PLEASURES

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1342 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0297858904
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (19 Jun. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003TO5ANQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #65,494 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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 characters who have a range of motives for being in the port. The Balkan nations are dividing into those which support the Axis powers and those who's fierce nationalism leads them to plan for guerilla wars in the mountains.

Zannis is an honourable man and agrees to help a German Jewish woman from Berlin who is in the process of setting up a route to smuggle Jews out of Germany eastwards and onto Istanbul. The British get wind of this and approach Zannis, applying pressure on him to smuggle one of their scientists out of France before the Germans get their hands on him.

Furst is a master of what in the world of cinema would be called "noir". The characters, Zannis included, seem alienated from normal life. They inhabit dingy bars, arrange assignations on street corners and have to disappear into the shadows when cars containing their enemies nose into view. They have hopeless love affairs with old-flames before falling for the wife of a notorious gangster. Above all, the filthy game of spying infests their lives with its secrecy, its betrayals and its thorough-going nastiness.

There is so much here - complex intriguing, a cast of well-drawn international characters, huge suspense - at one point Zannis has to go to Paris where his contacts have tried to make him look as normal as possible by going to a restaurant used by Gestapo officers, where things almost go terribly wrong.
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By A. Ross TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've been reading Furst since his first book, and I'm thrilled that he's finally gotten around to setting something in my ancestral homeland (Greece). That said, he does have a very distinctive style that is definitely not to everyone's taste. His narratives tend to unfold in a somewhat fractured way, in vignettes that can sometimes skip large swathes of time and geography. His characters can often have a somewhat detached tone to them, which can make them somewhat less empathetic than your average spy/thriller protagonists. Personally, I feel no one does WWII atmosphere better, and I'm always glad to step back in time to a world that he's captured so wonderfully.

This book revolves around Constantine Zannis, a Greek police detective serving in Salonika (present-day Thessaloniki, historically, Greece's second-largest city). He works for a shadowy high-ranking police patron on "special" cases that involve more discretion and nuance than called for in common crimes. Although in 1940 the war has yet to reach Greece, it's clear that it's only a matter of time before it does, and the city is crawling with Allied and Axis spies. As the war creeps closer and closer to the border, we see him change roles, from policeman to spycatcher to activated reserve officer to Allied agent.

In these roles we first see Zannis get involved in an underground railroad helping Jews escape German-controlled territory into Turkey. This is handled very well, as we see all aspects of the operation, from the German enablers, their SS hunters, the scared couples on trains chugging through the Balkans, the palms that need to be greased at the Turkish border, etc. And when he gets trucked north to serve in a unit along the border, it brings home the human scale of the war in Europe.
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Format: Hardcover
The other reviews pretty well say it all. I have read all the Alan Furst books and it is a real treat when a new one is published. I learn so much from each book and find myself looking up additional information on the internet - not just a great read but also a learning experience!
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Format: Paperback
Alan Furst has clearly researched his material very thoroughly; unfortunately, the book wears its research rather heavily. The writing is full of exposition; characters are forever saying things to one another for the reader's benefit, rather than because they might realistically say them in the given situation; everything is EXPLAINED and SIGNPOSTED in capital letters.
To give a brief example, one character says: 'We are madly Hellenophile; you know, we have a great passion for Greece.' If you don't mind having every difficult word explained to you by the characters then maybe this won't annoy you, but after a while it began to drive me up the wall. Apart from anything else, it constantly reminded me that these characters were fictional, and that they were explaining things for my benefit rather than getting on with the plot. For me, the style of writing destroyed any tension that the story would otherwise have had.
It is a solidly constructed narrative but, because of the writing, the comparisons with John Le Carre are not really warranted. Perhaps I made a mistake in buying this one first. I see from other reviews of this novel that Furst's other books are better.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Furst is a brilliant writer and he brings alive times, places and people who no longer exist in this modern world with a clarity that is second to none. This book and his other more recent books are not quite as good as his earlier books. The earlier books heroes and heroines were bit players in the events portrayed and it was more a story of them trying to survive the situations that had been forced on them and their survival to the end of the book was conclusion enough . The more recent books seem to make their heroes more important in the great scheme of things and their rewards are a more positive definitive ending.
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