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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Blood of Victory
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 30 December 2016
Alan Furst has written fourteen books set in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. They form the "Night Soldiers" series and while they are loosely inter-connected, each is a standalone novels in its own right. Blood of Victory is set between November 1940-July 1941 and is about a British plot to disrupt the supply of Romanian oil to the Germans. Our hero is Serebin, a writer and journalist, originally from Odessa but now living in Paris.

This book showcases both what is good about Furst's writing and what is not so good. He has a wonderful economical writing style - he can pack more into a short paragraph than almost any other author I know. He creates a world full of richly realised characters and brings the settings to life with telling details. His stories are fictional but they feel real.

However as with so many of his books, the storyline takes a back seat to the characters and settings. There are long periods in this book where you kind of wonder where its going or what is the point of the little story we've got waylaid in. Sometimes, masterfully, he will weave it back in 100 pages down the track, but at other times it's just about creating layers of atmosphere, building up a scene in depth. Generally I like this aspect of his writing but this time round it felt like he'd let it go a little too far. The pace is sluggish and the plot seems murky right up until the final 40 pages, which are densely packed with heart in your mouth action.
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on 20 December 2003
I'm not a particular fan of spy stories, and I picked this book up without any great expectations. However I was pleasantly surprised. This is not genre writing as such, rather good literature. It is well written, has strong, well drawn characters, and has the knack of creating totally believable and engrossing scenes. The setting is interesting, and I was very impressed with the historical detail, and the knowledgeable interpretation of complex events. Perhaps best of all, however, was the way the book captured the alienation of individuals exiled from their own countries, drawn into a web of espionage in order to resist the Nazis. No simple judgements here, just a fine slice of realistic writing. I shall be reading anything by Alan Furst I can lay my hands on, and recommending him to anyone who will listen!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 March 2003
This is the fifth of Furst's seven WWII espionage novels I've read, and not one of his best. To be sure, it has all the trademarks of his work: good writing, dedication to period detail, oppressive and dreary atmosphere, exotic locales (Paris, Istanbul, Odessa, Belgrade, etc.), a middle-aged loner protagonist caught up in the espionage intrigues of the time, love interest, a blurry web of operatives. But that's the problem—if you've read a few of his books, you've basically read this one. The characters (especially the heroes) in his books are all starting to run together rather distressingly, and he's over-reliant on atmosphere to carry the minimally plotted stories. What's worse is that the pace of this one is absolutely glacial, there's barely any thrill in the thriller!
The gist here is that in 1940 the Allies are desperate to interdict German access to the vital Romanian oil fields. Having tried to sabotage them once before, they're faced with a tough problem. Paris-based Russian émigré writer I.A. Serebin is drawn into a plot to resurrect an old spy network in an attempt to strike a blow. However, Serebin's recruitment into this venture is never really convincing, and the weaving of the plot is so oblique that it's hard to get drawn in. It's as if Furst is so faithful to building the shadow world that his characters live in that he's forgotten about the reader. Which is not to say this is an awful book or anything, just that he's written better and might benefit from straying a little further from the European theater he's set seven books in.
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on 7 August 2009
This is (was) my first Furst (no pun intended) and it's surprising to see that a reviewer in the Sunday Times suggests 'the sophistication of Robert Harris or Sebastian Faulks'; this is shown on the front cover of the edition I was reading. Sorry, this novel comes nowhere near Harris or Faulks. The sentences are almost staccato. Fine, if it's intended to be avant garde, post-modern prose! For me, it really was disappointing and I gave up at page 83. Incidentally, having read Montefiore's Stalin - At the court of the Red Tsar recently, that was useful because some of the historic characters appear. However, there are just too many characters in Blood of Victory for me to keep track on - there are more in Montefiore's biography but, for some reason, it was not a problem then.
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on 6 February 2013
Another of Furst's detailed tales of intrigue and espionage set in war torn Europe . Not five star , the plot wanders a tad too far, but an absorbing read all the same. Furst always impresses with a detailed knowledge of the history and geography of his subject matter. As Lord Reith would approve, he manages to inform, educate and entertain once again. Recommended.
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on 10 July 2012
A very good, well paced read. Mind candy. You get into it fast; a comfortable Furst scenario; middle aged Russian emigre; leftist but not Stalinist, intellectual, sexually adventurous, he ticks all the boxes but doesnt really stand for anything. A warrior facing moral ambiguity. We like him because Adolf is evil and our hero fundamentally reflects western liberal values. This one starts in Istanbul and revolves around the Danube and some ridiculous plots to interrupt the oil flow from Roumanian oil fields in Ploesti.Nice descriptions of a little known part of Europe. It's all a bit confusing really...Paris, Serbia, Roumania and train journeys. Nobody can be trusted. One is forced to live on one's wits. Once again Furst gives a believable insight into the way events in 1938-1943 progressed and dragged people in. One was forced to make decisions that resulted in consequences. Unlike our comfortable life today events proceed at a pace that forces one to decide to collaborate, hide or take risks. Moral ambiguity or nobility? Fascinating stuff...
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on 22 February 2003
Trademark atmospherics, a loner hero with lovers in exotic towns, a carefully rendered historical setting (European Theatre 1939-41) -- all these tell us we are in the midst of another thriller by Alan Furst. This time, the references are even more oblique - tho the obligatory reference to the bullet hole in the restaurant mirror is there - and there is a fog-like uncertainty about proceedings. Our unlikely hero is a volunteer - and finds himself in harm's way in a somewhat improbable way. (Why is he there?) At the ending he fetches up not trumps but at least....
The idea is to block movement of oil from Roumania to Germany. Sabotage to the Ploesti oil fields has been tried; it failed. Now the agents who've signed on with the British come up with another scheme. They plan to obstruct river passage up the Danube. This scheme requires cooperation from long-forgotten friends, careful timing, and middle European semi-competence. Good story with a satisfying solution. Compare to "From Russia with Love" by Ian Fleming. But read the first Furst first: "Night Soldiers".
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on 11 November 2013
Any book by Alan Furst is always a great read for its atmosphere. His research and geography is excellent to the point where I am there sitting in the same room as his character. The pace is so believable with the occasional flash of violent action out of the blue producing a result which affects the major scene of the war just a little to be acceptable and credible. Always interesting.
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on 2 December 2012
Furst has never written a bad book. I'm working my way through his novels for the second time. His heroes are unusual; this time it's a Russian emigre poet. His sense of time and place is matchless and his plots credible. Furst's characterisation is convincing and in this, as with all his novels, some fascinating people amble round wartime Europe.
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on 1 August 2014
Brilliant - the quality of the writing is up there with the best. Others have likened his writing to Graham Greene. I would not shrink too far from that suggestion. The characters are interesting and have depth. The plot is fascinating and sucks you in. This is Tintin for adults - and I can think of no higher accolade.
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