“Spies” is the eleventh in Furst’s elegant series of espionage novels recreating the psychological and political tensions gripping Europe during the early Thirties and the first years of World War Two.
Critics agree that Furst has raised the spy novel above the level of mere thrillers. (Although I must admit I’m a big booster of “mere” thrillers.) The point, I think, is that his descriptions of European societies is so subtile, so nuanced, the writing so economical and at the same time so evocative….that it might have been the work of Marguerite Yourcenar or Irene Nemirovsky.
The novels stand alone, each with its significant protagonist, and can be read in any sequence they may fall to hand. Yet because the venue for the whole series is Europe within a restricted time span the series approaches being a single huge literary work.
Characters disappear, reappear, are referred to or remembered by other characters. And in one delightful literary conceit a Parisian brasserie, the scene of a shootout in one novel and a gathering of spies in another is present in each book; sometimes fully fledged and sometime like the ghost of a memory, something caught, almost, out of the corner of your eye.
There was an excellent interview of Alan Furst by Steve Inskeep on today’s Morning Edition. Click here.