Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst - book review #WWII

I'm not usually a reader of espionage novels, but having enjoyed Red Joan, I saw this on offer in our charity shop and decided to give it a try. Set in 1937 in Poland, just before the outbreak of WWII,  the book tells the story of Mercier, a French military attache and spy, and what happens when he accidentally saves Edward Uhl, a German engineer and secret agent, from assassination.

The book is complex - you have to have your wits about you to get your head around all the names, and to understand who's on whose side. The book is incredibly well-researched - I just believed in it all, the faded apartments, the stuffy restaurants, the cold of Poland. What the novel conveys really well is the fragile existence of a spy's identity. At any moment he can be asked to assume a new name, a new history, and leave for a new country. 

Unsentimental but realistic, the tension built and built and kept me flipping the pages.The plot is convoluted  and involves spying on the design and building of German Tanks, so I won't elaborate here. There is a nice balance of male and female characters though, with Anna, Mercier's lover, particularly well-drawn. A gripping read - recommended.

Listen to the Audio Book here

I had no idea the book had been made into a TV drama, which somehow I must have missed. Did anyone see it? Here is a quick reminder. It looks great, and now I have read the book I might make the effort to watch it. And - added bonus, it stars David Tennant!

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