(Current fiction and quality fiction of the past.)
“Mission to Paris” (Random House) by Alan Furst should grab a large summer reading audience according to Examiner’s enjoyable read (admittedly in the cool shade of his local library) in New Mexico where everything else appears to be burning. Even within the air-conditioned confines of the beautifully quiet library Examiner could smell the smoke which immediately transmitted Examiner mentally to a Parisian scene described by Furst.
As the publisher puts it, it was the late summer of 1938, Europe was about to explode, the Hollywood film star Fredric Stahl was on his way to Paris to make a movie for Paramount France. The Nazis know he’s coming—a secret bureau within the Reich Foreign Ministry has for years been waging political warfare against France, using bribery, intimidation, and corrupt newspapers to weaken French morale and degrade France’s will to defend herself.
For their purposes, Fredric Stahl is a perfect agent of influence, and they attack him. What they don’t know is that Stahl, horrified by the Nazi war on Jews and intellectuals, has become part of an informal spy service being run out of the American embassy in Paris.
And that’s just the beginning. Examiner followed smoke to fire:
From Alan Furst, the bestselling author, often praised as the best spy novelist ever, comes a novel that’s truly hard to put down, to which Examiner willingly testifies. “Mission to Paris” includes beautifully drawn scenes of romance and intimacy, the smoke, too, and the novel is alive with extraordinary characters: the German Baroness von Reschke, a famous hostess deeply involved in Nazi clandestine operations; the assassins Herbert and Lothar; the Russian film actress and spy Olga Orlova; the Hungarian diplomat and spy, Count Janos Polanyi; along with the French cast of Stahl’s movie, German film producers, and the magnetic women in Stahl’s life, the socialite Kiki de Saint-Ange and the émigré Renate Steiner.
But always at the center of the novel is the city of Paris, the heart and soul of Europe — its alleys and bistros, hotels grand and anonymous, and the Parisians, living every night as though it was their last. As always, Alan Furst brings to life both a dark time in history and the passion of the human hearts that fought to survive it.
A critique by Publishers Weekly: “Alan Furst’s writing reminds me of a swim in perfect water on a perfect day, fluid and exquisite. One wants the feeling to go on forever, the book to never end . . . Like Graham Greene; Furst creates believable characters caught up, with varying degrees of willingness, in the parade of political life. And because they care, the reader does, too . . . Furst is one of the finest spy novelists working today, and, from boudoir to the beach, ‘Mission to Paris’ is perfect summer reading.”
That’s for sure!