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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 January 2006
Furst's series of WWII-era espionage novels tend to eschew traditional narrative in favor of a series of episodes sharing a similar claustrophobic atmosphere in which a grim, reluctant hero must complete some task. The dual heroes of this latest (his eighth) is an aging Dutch tramp freighter and its dour Captain Eric DeHaan. The ship and its crew has been wandering the ports of the world for a year, ever since the Germans occupied Holland in May, 1940. Now, the exiled Dutch government in London has decided to allow the Dutch civilian fleet to be seconded to the British Navy for special operations. To his own fatalistic bemusement the skeptical DeHaan is secretly made a Captain in Royal Dutch Navy. His ship is then repainted, reflagged, and renamed at sea -- reemerging as a neutral Spanish freighter.
Among the crew or along for the ride is Furst's usual grab-bag of Europeans, including a Swiss spy for the British, Falangist Spaniards, anti-Nazi Germans, Jewish refugees, a Polish naval officer, and a female Russian journalist who becomes one of the captain's several bunkmates. The story follows the incognito vessel as it moves amongst the shadowy open ports such as Lisbon, Alexandria, and Tangiers performing various deeds for British intelligence. These episodes include dropping some commandos into North Africa, dropping some ammo off at Crete for the British troops there, before winding things up with a supply drop to the resistance in Sweden.
As usual, atmosphere simply drips from the pages. The freighter's dank smells and cramped cabins come alive as it creaks and groans its way through the story. As others have pointed out, although the book is stuffed with nautical details, they're not always correct, which is likely to irk those with maritime experience. And while the ship and ports are given loving treatment, the same cannot be said of the characters. Furst just doesn't spend enough time on them to make them truly come alive. This is especially true of Captain DeHaan, who should be the protagonist, but ends up a flat figure, suborned to the ship. The story Furst tells is certainly interesting an interesting one, highlighting the shadowy world of merchant shipping in the war, however it generally lacks the suspense one expects from him. It's also much more straightforward than usual, the plot proceeds from point to point without the moral complexities one usually finds in his work. It's not a bad book, just not great, and not as rich as others of his.
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on 7 October 2005
Furst doesn't write thrillers in the conventional use of the term. He writes stories about people coping wih living in extraordinary circumstances -- no plans or grand schemes just the buffetings of Fate which require making constant adjustments and compromises. So the stories, like episodes in life, sometimes have a distinct beginning and an end but often just peter out without any fixed resolution. Either you like that or perhaps you find his books unsatisfying since you might think the stories get nowhere. I like it.
Dark Voyage is a novel in this mould with a strong narrative but a wandering story. It has echoes of Greene and Conrad as another reviewer has suggested and a similarly poignant ending like many of Greene's stories.
And like many of Greene's "entertainments" it is to be viewed on its merits -- it does not set out to self-importantly weigh the human condition. It does seek to entertain -- and it succeeds in doing that very well. Intelligent writing that does not stoop to sensation or artifices of plot to achieve its effect .
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on 6 August 2013
Due to poor health, I am really unable to go into the reasons why I enjoy a book in any depth at all. All I can say is that I did/did not enjoy the writings. Alan Furst is able to conjure up Europe before & during the Second World War in a way that had me reading half the night. I did not initially realise he had so many stories published, so did not come on them in order, but I do not think that matters. Some characters & incidents do overlap in quite a few of the stories, but one is not left floundering, wondering who is who & why is that?

I am so sad that i have now read them all to date.
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on 8 April 2015
I like all of Alan Furstt's books. Tthe story took place during war time, and was about a particular vessel during its various voyages , which I found at times a bit slow. However the people in it were interesting. I quite liked it.
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"Your tackle is loosed,
They could not strengthen their mast,
They could not spread the sail.

Then the prey of great plunder is divided;
The lame take the prey." -- Isaiah 33:23-24 (NKJV)

Let me make it clear that I am reviewing the unabridged Recorded Books version that is narrated by George Guidall.

You would be missing a great treat not to listen to this recording of Mr. Guidall's reading. It's a wonderful combination of a marvelous spy story with a sensitive, savvy reader.

I like spy stories. I'm sure you do, too.

The best ones take us into situations we never imagined and are full of real dangers that make us feel the tension almost as though it were happening to us. Usually, only movies can fully grip us. Books are not usually as powerful. Dark Voyage is a happy exception.

The starting point of Dark Voyage is one that most readers don't think much about: how Dutch patriots who escaped the German invasion at the start of World War II might have formed an offshore resistance movement involving ocean shipping. How would such people feel? What could they do? Who would they ally with?

Mr. Furst adds another emotional perspective, the plight of stateless people escaping oppression. The reader's heart is drawn to them and feels pain from their difficulties and dilemmas.

Like the fine storyteller that he is, Mr. Furst also puts in a connection to an important aspect of the war: finding ways to win the battle of the seas at a time when Britain's supply lines were hanging by a thread.

Beyond that, the story illuminates an important part of World War II history at close range so we can understand the vagaries of war and alliances in new ways.

I thought that the story was magnificently imagined and eloquently told in every sense. It will be a voyage I'm sure you'll never forget.

Bravo, Mr. Furst and Mr. Guidall!
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on 5 March 2007
I want so much to enjoy Furst's novels. The atmosphere is there, the mysterious characters are there, but the plot is almost non-existent. There's virtually no referring back: an affair DeHaan once had in Paris is just that, an afffair he once had; skills he has picked up in a long life in the merchant navy are rarely mentioned, simply assumed; and almost all of the events (a lorry in the hold catches fire - was it an accident or not?) are so inconsequential as to have no bearing on the story whatsoever. Is this what is called a linear plot? I don't know, but it is surely the shortest distance between two points. As I say, the writing is a pleasure to read, but where are the skeletons in the closet? Where are the characters of dubious origin? And where is the German anti-espionage effort? There is more danger from passing Stukas than from the men in leather raincoats. Sady insubstantial.
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on 28 January 2016
Looked forward to reading my first Alan Furst was rather disappointed. Found the plot line baffling at times and paragraph construction
I could not understand. Some of the background atmosphere was handled well. Has been compared to Robert Harris sorry not in the same
league.
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on 14 February 2014
I've read everything Allan F has written and have been enthralled by every one. The time he covers, between the world's wars is a crucial and fascinating period and is depicted in rigorously well researched manner.
I love the ending, for instance Dark Voyage, leaving the reader with a sense of a real experience.
You'll have to write faster Allan as I've read everything you've written.

Ian Russell
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on 4 November 2012
Alan Furst has produced an extensive series of books about the second war which are well researched and inform the reader about the history of the Balkans, resistance in Paris and the war of espionage across Europe - bit formulaic if you read them one after the other but still a good read
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on 11 December 2004
Once more Mr Furst gives a little jewel to love. Gritty, yet romantic. Real, yet absurd. Life in paper and ink. Looking forward to his next.
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