Top critical review
Intelligent, well researched spy thriller
on 14 September 2017
This is the story of Szara, a Polish Jew, who works as a journalist and spy for the Russians in the years leading up to the Second World War. As one might expect, there is a complex plot with some interesting twists and some fascinating personalities. There is also a massive amount of history and it's obvious that Alan Furst has taken his subject seriously and done plenty of research into the origins of the Russian Revolution and the bizarre love-hate relationship between Hitler and Stalin in the 1930s. If I were to pick out a single part of the book for praise, it is the way Alan Furst describes the German invasion of Poland in 1939, beautifully dramatised with immaculate attention to detail.
If one is to be critical, one has to say that the middle third of the book sacrifices pace for historical exposition. The dialogue is unnatural and used to download information rather than to develop character. In places I felt I was reading a textbook rather than a novel. But the historical content is so interesting that many readers won't mind this at all - I have a friend who has read this book four times and plans to read it again, so plainly the historical content is no obstacle for him.
The quality of the writing in Dark Star is superb, particularly in the early part of the book and in the final section. Furst takes us into a world of intrigue and authenticates it with astonishing attention to period detail. This book is a great read, and in places a great novel.