Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Saturday, June 28, 2014 at 12:02 AM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

‘Midnight in Europe:’ forces of darkness in pre-WWII Spain

Alan Furst’s new novel “Midnight in Europe” features a Spanish lawyer exiled to Paris, whose comfortable life ends when he agrees to help buy arms for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.


Special to The Seattle Times

advertising

“Midnight in Europe”

by Alan Furst

Random House, 272 pp., $27

Alan Furst’s intelligent espionage novels mine a rich source: Europe before and during World War II. “Frankly, my period, 1933-1944 is endless,” he once said. “No one will ever tell all the stories.”

It’s 1938, on the cusp of war. Hitler’s on the move, still a terrifying threat rather than an ever-present horror. Violence already grips Spain as Republican troops battle Gen. Francisco Franco and his Nationalist forces.

Spanish lawyer Christián Ferrar, based in Paris, has an agreeable life. But his world transforms when he’s recruited to help smuggle heavy artillery to the Republicans. So begins his journey across Europe, from seedy Parisian nightclubs to shadowy Istanbul and a thrilling moment that involves stealing a Polish train.

Superficially, Furst’s books resemble each other. They star ordinary men forced into decisive action by extraordinary times.

A single mission to deflect fascist power typically drives the plots. Iin a sense, nothing much happens — the author concentrates on atmosphere and his characters’ lives, not slam-bang action.

Inevitably, his books include a love affair and appreciation for the small pleasures in life — a strong espresso, a satisfying cigarette, the warmth of a Paris bistro in winter.

So what if the books are variations of a basic template? Formula here hardly means unimaginative.

But I would like to see the author stretch a bit. I’d especially relish a female protagonist. His women are strong supporting characters but deserve center stage. A book told from the viewpoint of a German — either soldier or civilian — would be fascinating.

Still, Furst remains one of the top dogs of spy fiction, right up there with John le Carré, Charles McCarry and others. And he’s got plenty of stories yet to tell.

Adam Woog reviews crime fiction the second Sunday of each month in The Seattle Times.



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►