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Friday, June 21, 2013

Mission to Paris by Alan Furst

Alan Furst has been called 'the master of spy novels', and Mission to Paris is no exception.  This excellent novel dazzles with its evocative and suspenseful atmosphere, sympathetic characters, and story of courage and love in a Europe threatened by war.

Fredric Stahl, the main character, is a famous American actor, originally from Austria.  Sent to beautiful Paris to star in a Warner Brothers movie, Stahl finds himself caught in the midst of odd and threatening Germans.  Soon he is asked to become a secret agent by the American Ambassador, when he'd rather concentrate on his acting.  Stahl also has to work out whether the woman he is attracted to, Kiki, is really on his side.

I did find this novel a little slow-moving at first, but the pace soon quickens as Stahl becomes increasingly trapped in a dangerous world, because the Nazis are determined to use his acting skills for their own ends.  The book becomes more and more riveting, as the Nazis close in.

The atmosphere of luxury and suspence in Paris is beautifully described. Stahl stays at the expensive Claridge's and eats in lavish restaurants, but he also attends rather bohemian parties, and gets mixed up with an intriguing emigre.

This book also contained strange information, for example, that the perfumer Coty had a secret cache of arms and leaned toward Fascism.

My only complaint is the swearing.  I didn't really see any need for it.

My favourite is still The Spies of Warsaw, I think, because the central character is so heroic and religious.

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