A Hero of France by Alan Furst

Review by Richard Goldman
Hardcover June 2016

Buy it at Mystery Lovers Bookshop

If one of the routes to success for a writer is to pick a subject that you love and write about it with depth, understanding a wealth of research then Alan Furst has deserved his success with his marvelous series of novels set in wartime Europe. 

This latest returns Furst to his first love, Paris, with a tale set in the earliest days of the Resistance. Our protagonist, who goes by the nom de guerre Matheiu, is busy in May of 1941 organizing escape lines. These were small cells that helped downed British airmen to return to England by way of Vichy, France and then neutral Spain. It's dangerous work and Matheiu has his share of close escapes as his work gradually expands, under the influence of the British S.O.E., to landing agents in France who will begin the sabotage and assassination tasks that the Resistance moved to as the war went on.

As always, Furst draws a loving portrait of Paris and Parisians with a keen eye for the various types in that city from wealthy aristocrats to cafe owners and workmen.

If you are unfamiliar with Furst's work then I urge you to begin with some of his backlist. His books have not been written in chronological order so you can begin anywhere although The World at Night and Red Gold are two parts of the same story which should be read in that order. There are several titles that feature characters from other books but this shouldn't bother you particularly as you read various titles. The Polish Officer is another favorite of mine.

As a teenager I discovered Eric Ambler and fell in love with his tales of espionage and crime in the inter-war years particularly in places like Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. The exotic settings and unusual characters just won me over. I felt similarly when I discovered Furst. Enjoy.