Mission to Paris

8/10/12 The other day someone was telling me about how when she finds an author she really likes, she’ll read everything that author has written. I’m the same way (although I have not read everything by Trollope or Dickens), and when a neighbor told me about Alan Furst four years ago, I read his most current book and then went back and read all the others. For those of you not familiar with Furst, his “spy” novels take place in pre- and early-WWII Europe (although one does bring two characters to the end of the war). Minor characters turn up in several books, and a major character in one book sometimes makes a cameo in another. Indeed, that’s true of Furst’s latest, A Mission to Paris – one of my favorites, the mysterious Count Polyani shows up to render some much needed assistance. And that’s one of Furst’s strengths, his characters. They may be troubled and are not always completely sympathetic, but they’re real enough. Furst’s plots, for the most part, may be directed by the rules of cloak and dagger, but the books are historical novels as much as they are spy novels. Baby Boomers love them because our fathers fought in WWII, and the world he conjures up is that of the movies we so admired, like Casa Blanca. But now the not-so-good news. This novel, like the two that preceded it, is a bit of a dud. It’s predictable, though atmospheric, a bit rushed, too. I’m sure Furst’s mind is full of back story, which is why and how he can keep referencing one book to another while telling a completely different tale. But he hasn’t come up with anything as truly moving as The Polish Officer or as detailed and involving as Red Gold in a few years. If you haven’t read any Furst, and if you find WWII intriguing, he’s your guy, even if you don’t think you love spy novels. Try one out. But don’t begin with A Mission to Paris. Read it, yes, but after you’ve finished the others. (Clicking on the cover will bring you to the Barnes & Noble website.)