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Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst

Kingdom of Shadows (2000)

by Alan Furst

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Series: Night Soldiers (6)

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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
I love Alan Furst's World War II noir thrillers and this one is very noir indeed.`Nicholas Morath, nephew to my favorite Furst recurring character, Hungarian Count Janos Polanyi, is living the good life as an advertising executive in Paris while helping his uncle out with his clandestine work on the side. It is 1938 and as the story moves along - told in a series of vignettes rather than a straight forward narrative - Nicholas is drawn further and further into the shadowy world of displaced persons, spies, counter spies and ever-shifting loyalties between nations.

I can't relate much of the plot without spoiling the book, but I will say that the best line in the book is "I came here for you. I burned down this hotel for you." If you hsen't red this book, you're missing out on something special. ( )
  etxgardener | Jun 13, 2015 |
A book needs some background but not so much as here and w more suspense. It was better at the end but it still barely made a 3.0. Not one of Furst's best efforts. I did like the Morath character though. ( )
  JBreedlove | Feb 22, 2015 |
Nicholas Morath was a soldier in the first world war, a cavalry officer who almost lost his legs and bears the scars from it, and as the story opens, he is a Hungarian ex-pat living the relative good life in Paris with an Argentine love interest. He is owner of an advertising business through his uncle Count Polyni, a Hungarian diplomat in Paris, and will eventually receive an inheritance from him. He apparently has enough money to live very well if not extremely well. Their former homelands were partitioned up from the old Austro-Hungarian empire after WWI. His mother and sister still live in Budapest, Hungary. The story opens in 1938 and Hitler and his war machine have already been making the opening moves of WWII and getting worse. Morath aids his Uncle and things get increasingly "scary" for lack of a more descriptive term as Hitler and Nazi aggression escalate.

The novel is like a series of short stories, loosely connected. The plus side of this is an array of interesting characters, intrigue and situations and "atmosphere". The downside is meeting somewhat interesting characters and then they are gone, as if they were the guest star of the week in a TV series. The chapter titles themselves clue you into this structure, although I didn't realize that at first. "In the Garden of the Baroness Frei," "Von Schleban's Whore," "Night Train to Budapest," and "Intermarium" are the parts, and there are side stories within those. This story structure ended up working very well and things do get tidied up by the end. The history in here is very good and was really worth the read. I had grown quite fond of Nicholas Morath by the end of the story. This was my first Furst. groan. I'll certainly read more by him in the future. Interesting time in history that I'm not terribly familiar with. Overall, a very good book. ( )
1 vote RBeffa | Jan 2, 2015 |
The hero this time is Nicholas Morath, a Hungarian living in Paris. He works closely with his Uncle Count Polyani in a world of intrigue where the good guys are battling the emerging Nazi party prior to the start of WWII.
Good story but the plots are becoming a little too similar. This is my third Furst book and I think I will stay away for a while. ( )
  MaggieFlo | Nov 27, 2014 |
A strong 3 1/2 stars. A different kind of pace for Furst in this one. A more cerebral, nonchalant hero. Nicolas is quite a different hero than what Furst has usually. This is an aristocrat, an Hungarian count, that is caught in the spying game almost by boredom and family loyalty at first. Gets terribly frighten and then well.. becomes a reluctant hero. The style is subdue, all in shades of grey. Different from The Polish Officer, different from Blood of Victory or even the more intellectual hero of Spies of Warsaw. It's a enjoyable change of pace. ( )
  writerlibrarian | Apr 7, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Furst, Alanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bortolussi, Stefanosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
Excerpt from the beginning of Chapter 1:
"On the tenth of March 1938, the night train from Budapest pulled into the Gare du Nord a little after four in the morning. There were storms in the Ruhr Valley and down through Picardy and the sides of the wagon-lits glistened with rain. In the station at Vienna, a brick had been thrown at the window of a first-class compartment, leaving a frosted star in the glass. And later that day there'd been difficulties at the frontiers for some of the passengers, so in the end the train was late getting into Paris.

Nicholas Morath, traveling on a Hungarian diplomatic passport, hurried down the platform and headed for the taxi rank outside the station. The first driver in line watched him for a moment, then briskly folded his Paris-Midi and sat up straight behind the wheel. Morath tossed his bag on the floor in the back and climbed in after it. "L'avenue Bourdonnais," he said. "Number eight."

Foreign, the driver thought. Aristocrat. He started his cab and sped along the quai toward the Seventh Arrondissement. Morath cranked the window down and let the sharp city air blow in his face.

8, avenue de la Bourdonnais. A cold, haut bourgeois fortress of biscuit-colored stone block, flanked by the legations of small countries. Clearly, the people who lived there were people who could live anywhere, which was why they lived there. Morath opened the gate with a big key, walked across the courtyard, used a second key for the building entry. "Bonsoir, S'l'ne," he said. The black Belgian shepherd belonged to the concierge and guarded the door at night. A shadow in the darkness, she came to his hand for a pat, then sighed as she stretched back out on the tile. Sýlýne, he thought, goddess of the moon.

Cara's apartment was the top floor. He let himself in. His footsteps echoed on the parquet in the long hallway. The bedroom door was open, by the glow of a streetlamp he could see a bottle of champagne and two glasses on the dressing table, a candle on the rosewood chest had burned down to a puddle of golden wax.



"What time is it?"


"Your wire said midnight." She sat up, kicked free of the quilts. She had fallen asleep in her lovemaking costume, what she called her "petite chemisette," silky and black and very short, a dainty filigree of lace on top. She leaned forward and pulled it over her head, there was a red line across her breast where she'd slept on the seam.

She shook her hair back and smiled at him. "Well?" When he didn't respond she said, "We are going to have champagne, arenýt we?"

Oh no. But he didn't say it. She was twenty-six, he was forty-four. He retrieved the champagne from the dressing table, held the cork, and twisted the bottle slowly until the air hissed out. He filled a glass, gave it to her, poured one for himself."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375758267, Paperback)

Penzler Pick, January 2001: The thrillers of Alan Furst usually take place in the dark days preceding World War II, but while the main participants in that war are of course portrayed, Britain, France, Germany, and the United States do not usually star in Furst's novels. He prefers instead to focus his stories on the citizens of those countries whose allegiances and roles in that particular theater of operations are much more contradictory and conflicted.

Kingdom of Shadows is set in Paris during 1938 and 1939. It is unclear at that time what the fate of Hungary will be if Hitler has his way, but a small group of expatriates would like to insure that events turn out in their country's favor. Nicholas Morath is an Hungarian aristocrat who fought bravely in the Great War. He is now part owner of an advertising agency in Paris, while his uncle, Count Janos Polanyi, is a minor diplomat stationed in Paris. Polanyi calls on Nicholas to take part in missions against the Hungarian Fascists: carrying letters or bringing individuals back across the border in the course of his business trips.

As Nicholas's dinner parties, business deals, and dalliances with his mistress start to take a back seat to the escalating crisis in Europe, his tasks become more complicated, dangerous, and bewildering to him. He knows far less than the reader, who understands that his actions will have far-reaching consequences even beyond the fate of Hungary. Nicholas just does what he can without the luxury of historic hindsight.

Furst has fashioned here an elegant gem that vividly portrays the city of Paris during the last peaceful days of 1938 and the menace of Hitler's ambitions in the Sudetenland and beyond. Nicholas Morath is a charismatic and sympathetic figure who will come to understand, as the war progresses, the consequences, both good and bad, of his smallest actions during that turbulent time. --Otto Penzler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:37 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"Paris, 1938. As Europe edges toward war, Nicholas Morath arrives in Paris on the night express from Budapest. Morath, urbane and handsome at forty-four, a lieutenant of the Hungarian cavalry in the First World War, spends his days as the owner of a small advertising agency and his nights in the bohemian circles of his Argentine mistress. Looming over this elegant existence, however, is the shadow of Adolf Hitler. Morath has been recruited by his uncle, Count Janos Polanyi, for a secret mission of the utmost importance. Polanyi is a diplomat at the Hungarian legation in Paris; desperate to stop his country's drift into alliance with Nazi Germany, he lives in a shadow world and trades in conspiracy." "It is Morath who does Polanyi's clandestine work, moving between the beach cafes of Juan-les-Pins and the forests of Ruthenia, from Czech fortresses in the Sudetenland to the private gardens of declasse royalty in Budapest. Hungary is a small nation caught between two great powers: to avoid being drawn into the coming conflagration will require desperate ingenuity. As the failure of appeasement becomes grimly apparent, Hitler marches into Prague and threatens Poland, and Morath is drawn deeper and deeper into danger, as quiet favors become secret missions, until ultimately he is risking his life behind enemy lines for the very future of a free Europe."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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