Photo of the Hotel Europejski by afagen used under a Creative Commons license.
Alan Furst, The Spies of Warsaw (Random House, 2008).
A spy novel set mostly in Warsaw in 1937, with the French military attache at the center of a complex cast of characters. Furst is the master of atmospherics, of recapturing the mood and feel of a Europe on the brink of war. His Warsaw is long, long gone, so this is hardly a guide to modern Poland, but that is the fun of it. I liked this one more than Furst’s last few, and I really like all of them.
Here is Furst’s site. Here is Wikipedia on Furst. Take a look at Google Books. Tracee has an excerpt. Janet Maslin (The New York Times) says Furst can invest even the most humdrum situation with elegant acuity. Jonathan Shapiro likens Furst to Chopin. Fred Hasson says Furst’s depictions of old-world Europe are documentary and nostalgic. Jake Seliger was disappointed. David H. Schleicher was a little disappointed. Anna wasn’t. Oliver Marre (The Guardian) thinks Furst’s mastery of period detail is extraordinary. Listen to Furst read from the book. Jesse Kornbluth says the genius of the novel is that small people have large effects. Jonathan Yardley (The Washington Post) says it’s entertaining from first page to last. Steven E. Alford (The Houston Chronicle) says it brings an exotic world of sex and intrigue that is instantly recognizable as Furstland. Michael Lee calls Furst a master of setting. Clea Simon (Boston Phoenix) says Furst fans will recognize the small struggles of ordinary people as war clouds gather. Michael Kenney (The Boston Globe) says it conveys the sense of atmosphere. Alessandra Stanley (The New York Times) says it’s smarter and more soulful than most espionage novels. Mark Feeney (New York Observer) calls Furst’s novels suave, expert and very nearly weightless. Dan Cryer (San Francisco Chronicle) thinks a spark is missing. Jeff Lipshaw recommends it. Sandy Nawrot was disappointed that Warsaw’s essence wasn’t more developed. Jenny says Furst goes above and beyond the espionage genre. Liz Nichols offers a brief summary. Scott Timberg asks if any working novelist sketches atmosphere as well as Furst, and has a story about Furst’s awesome recall. Meghan liked it. Mark Johnson says Furst has a rare talent of allowing readers to experience his locations. Kenneth Crowe was unhappy with the ending. John League wishes it were longer. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang says it hits a nice balance between familiarity and novelty. Michael Carlson says Furst recalls Eric Ambler. Here is an interview with Furst. Here is another with Beyond the Books. John Marshall interviewed him for The Daily Beast. Matt Poland interviewed him for Splice Today. Paul Constant interviewed him for The Stranger. Listen to Furst on KQED’s Forum. Or listen to this interview with Lewis Frumkes. Watch Furst with Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show. Bookmarks links to many published reviews. The New York Times uses the book as an entree to modern Warsaw, and Willard B. Moore enjoys the meal. CNN’s Kasla Ostrowski recommends it over your breakfast in Warsaw. And Furst picks five of his favorite spy novels.