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Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst

Midnight in Europe (2014)

by Alan Furst

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4914532,276 (3.54)75



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Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Furst has found a niche for himself writing spy thrillers set in wars happening at the periphery of World War Two and in countries not commonly covered like Greece and Spain. One learns a bit about history reading his books. Fast-paced this book is but there were some parts which I couldn't quite understand. For example, who were the people following Christian in New York and why was the Marquesa in Spain? There is also the obligatory love story that adds little to the plot. ( )
  siok | Jun 28, 2019 |
Alan Furst has written a series of books which focus on different aspects of espionage in pre-WW2 Europe. There are connections between the books but you can read them in any order and each is a standalone story.
I was slow to warm to this story. Furst's books have an unusual plot structure. They tend to meander, moving from one mini-story to the next. There are connecting threads throughout - and indeed, this book goes a full circle - but there isn't really a sense of there being one coherent storyline. Nevertheless, the end result was very satisfying - and I was left wanting to know more of Ferrar as he seemingly finds a new life in the US.
It is Paris in 1938. Cristian Ferrar is a Spanish lawyer who is approached by the Spanish Republicans and asked to assist in the procurement of weapons for the Republican army to use in the Spanish Civil War against Franco's forces. He is paired up with a former arms agent, Max de Lyon. Together they will work to locate and obtain weaponry that will then need to be smuggled out of Europe and across to Spain. The story encompasses a number of locations: Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Romania and the Soviet Union.
Furst’s style is economical, but densely packed with details and wonderfully rounded characters, so you really feel that you are immersed in pre-War Europe with all its tensions and danger. There was one very small moment which has really stayed with me, when Ferrar is travelling on an overnight train through Germany and sees the realities of the immense industrial efforts to build up arms in preparation for war. It is spine-tingling. ( )
  Jawin | May 24, 2018 |
James H. Duncan on Furst
Rank :#14: Midnight in Europe

Midnight in Europe is the one book in the series I would warn people against reading. I’ve read worse books overall, but as far as the Night Soldiers series goes, this one felt like Alan Furst was going through the motions. It’s about a Spanish émigré lawyer, Christián Ferrar, living in New York and traveling to Paris where acquaintances convince him to help send money and weapons to leftist forces fighting against fascism in Spain, the prologue to the Nazi domination of Europe. Sounds intriguing, right? But it was a let down. The dialogue felt overly simple, and Furst uses it to explain otherwise obvious plot points repeatedly, as if we needed simplified guidance from A to B to C and so on. And there are a few sub-plots running throughout the book that feel aimless and don’t really go anywhere. So if you’re feeling brave, go ahead, but for readers new to Alan Furst, I implore you to start elsewhere. And if you read this one already and stopped, I encourage you to continue. He is so much better than this.

A High-Living Idealist, Running Guns in 1938
Books of The Times
JUNE 23, 2014

The title of Alan Furst’s latest World War II novel, “Midnight in Europe,” could apply to any of them. But don’t be fooled by its generic sound: Mr. Furst, who has by now approached that era and the dread preceding it from so many different cultural and geographical perspectives, remains at the top of his game. This is another fine addition to his elegant, gripping, interwoven set of novels that will someday form a kaleidoscopic map of European powers forced into desperate alliances as they fight for their lives.

Mr. Furst has long since carved out this turf and made it his own. And he has managed to come up with a surprising number of variations on the same themes. “Midnight in Europe” centers on the interests of the nearly defeated Spanish Republican Army in 1938, so its terrain could not have less in common with “Spies of the Balkans” (which begins in the northern Greek city of Salonika, anxiously awaiting invasion in 1940) or “Dark Voyage” (which culminates in a thrillingly dangerous journey through the Baltic and North seas). And yet there is no mistaking the author’s stylistic imprint on all of these stories. With “Midnight in Europe,” it’s particularly strong.

“Midnight in Europe” presents the first Furst hero in recent years who displays a true return to form. The last novel, “Mission to Paris,” offered its own sardonic pleasures from the perspective of Fredric Stahl, a Hollywood movie star sent by his studio in 1938 — one of the author’s favorite years for dramatic purposes — to make a film called “Après la Guerre,” or “After the War.” Even for an actor, who dissembles for a living, pretending a storm is over before it has begun requires a special degree of discreet fakery. And his global fame and Viennese origins make him so desirable as a spy that Stahl spends much of the book trying to avoid trouble. He is unsuccessful, of course. The new book’s hero, Cristián Ferrar, may not be a matinee idol, but he instantly earns his place in the author’s canon, too.

Ferrar is a Spanish émigré living in Paris. And unlike a lot of Mr. Furst’s other leading men, he is an influential person in his own right. He works for a powerful international law firm, and at the start of the book, the firm is deluged with the business of Spanish clients whose problems can no longer be solved by the legal process. With the Spanish Civil War now in its 17th month (the book opens in mid-December 1937), people and corporations are cut off from their money, and records of ownership no longer exist. The law firm has become practiced in lines like “We regret your misfortune, Monsieur, but the oil tanker has apparently vanished.”
Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story

Ferrar is also one of Mr. Furst’s more amorous types, which says a lot. Of Catalan heritage, with thick black hair, he is physically obsessed with the redhead with whom he maintains an off-and-on affair in New York, and all implicit kinks are intentional. (“What’s in the bag, Cristián?” “Presents for you, but you’ll have to ... earn them.”) The story leaves him precious little time for this dalliance after he is summoned back to Paris to take part in the effort to buy munitions for the Republican Army on the international arms market. His predecessor seems to have run afoul of a beautiful female spy just before being caught and executed.
Alan Furst Credit Rainer Hosch

Ferrar’s skills as a negotiator and diplomat make him well suited to these new responsibilities. A Furstian bon vivant, he also skeptically enjoys the fact that everyone with whom he must meet, from his law firm’s managing partner to assorted operators and high rollers in the covert arms business, insists on seeing him at elegant restaurants and nightclubs, the sorts of places the author describes with such finesse. This book’s map of Paris features not only landmarks like the Place de la Bastille and the Spanish Embassy, but also famous watering holes. Mr. Furst has either done prodigious research or has a splendidly evocative imagination about what an Art Deco nightclub of the period would look like — and how oblivious, if not peevish, its patrons would be about the sheer nuisance of imminent war.

Mr. Furst continues to make seduction one of his great subjects, whether it be moral or erotic. He stages some delightful illustrations of perfectly executed bribery at one of those lavish restaurants; if the Champagne won’t do it, maybe a chandelier will. And, in general, he shows Ferrar and the new friends he must make out of expedience being remarkably resourceful, whether paying off bureaucrats or sweet-talking the elite.

As for seduction, the book introduces an ice-cold Spanish marquesa whose manner is so forbidding, her posture so erect, her leather-gloved hand so inaccessible, that Ferrar is an instant pushover. When he kisses that glove and feels body heat beneath the leather, he is too smart not to know that he is being played — but too smitten not to enjoy it.

Off in the background of this leisurely but dramatically paced book, there is the stray quirk that Ferrar’s mother is obsessed with the idea of noble heritage and would love for him to marry an aristocrat. And, as one of Mr. Furst’s kinder characters, Ferrar thinks about the members of his family enough to arrange an escape route for them, should they need one. But as this book heats up, it shifts focus and becomes a desperate and dangerous race to get a boatload of arms to the Republicans. Nothing interferes with Ferrar’s determination: If they don’t win this last battle, Spain will be Franco’s and Hitler’s at last.

Mr. Furst tells galloping good stories, and “Midnight in Europe” is one of them. But he never needs to end his books on notes of tragedy. History has done the job for him. ( )
  meadcl | Dec 31, 2017 |
This historical spy novel is set mostly in Paris from late-1937 through much of 1938. The protagonist, Cristian Ferrar, a Spanish emigre living in Paris, is a lawyer for an international firm and travels often for his job, spending time at the main office in New York, where he has a lover, and in Paris. But he also is a supporter of the Republican forces in Spain fighting Franco's fascist army. Unlike most of Furst's novels that I've read, which focus on spying against Germany, in this book, Nazi Germany's actions form a backdrop for the conflict in Spain when Ferrar is enlisted by the Republic's diplomats in Paris to help supply arms to the Republic's army. Since most countries won't ship arms directly to Spain, Ferrar and Max de Lyon, a diplomat/arms dealer, engage in dangerous clandestine operations.

The usual Furst thrills are on display, with Cristian becoming involved with a woman who likely is more than she seems, close calls in enemy territory, and even appearances of characters from other of Furst's novels, especially Count Polanyi. As always, I felt like I was part of the time and place, thanks to Furst's impeccable research and attention to detail. His books might not be compulsive pageturners, but they are engrossing, filled with wonderful, fully realized characters. Now, on to the next one! ( )
  ShellyS | Sep 20, 2017 |
I hate to say it, but Furst seems to be getting tired. This feels perfunctory.
  sonofcarc | Dec 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Mr. Furst tells galloping good stories, and “Midnight in Europe” is one of them. But he never needs to end his books on notes of tragedy. History has done the job for him.
added by melmore | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Jun 23, 2014)
Alan Furst’s novels have invoked glowing comparisons with Graham Greene for his idiosyncratic recreations of 1930s Europe; Midnight in Europe shows there is not the slightest diminution in his masterly command.
added by melmore | editFinancial Times, Barry Forshaw (May 23, 2014)
Furst owns the dark blanket that covers Europe between the two world wars. His latest is a satisfying, thought-provoking read.
added by melmore | editKirkus Review (May 7, 2014)
As usual, Furst manages to capture the fragile, itinerant nature of European life during the interwar period, dropping in hints of the horror to come, but this is one of his less memorable efforts.
added by melmore | editPublishers Weekly (Apr 21, 2014)
There’s a certain sense of fatedness that emerges in the 13 espionage novels Alan Furst has written about Europe before and during World War II, even if it’s never quite enunciated in their wry, reticent storytelling
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"The lamps are going out all over Europe.
We shall not see them lit again in our time."
-Sir Edward Grey,
British foreign secretary, 
on 3 August 1914, the eve
Of the First World War
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On a soft, winter evening in Manhattan, the Fifteenth of December, 1937, it started to snow; big flakes spun lazily in the sky, danced in the lights of office buildings, then melted as they hit the pavement.
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The future of Spain is at stake. Germany and Italy have ensured that Republican forces are starved of weapons and a Franco victory now looks likely. Cristian Ferrar, a Spanish lawyer living in Paris, is a well-connected man. When Ferrar is approached by anti-Franco forces, he readily agrees asked to help smuggle arms into his homeland. Working with de Lyon - an enigmatic man of Slavic descent - Ferrar goes on a quest which will take him from libertine nightclubs in the City of Light to volatile bars by the docks in Gdansk, as Europe holds its breath.

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