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Dark Voyage: A Novel Paperback – May 31, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 150 customer reviews
Book 8 of 12 in the Night Soldiers Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A new historical espionage thriller by Alan Furst is always cause for celebration, and in his eighth novel, the talented writer who's made a particular time and place his own--Europe on the eve of World War II--takes his fortunate readers aboard the tramp ship Noordendam. Its captain, E.M. DeHaan, is recruited by Dutch Naval Intelligence to smuggle arms and spies past the watchful eyes of the German Navy. Like most of Furst's protagonists, DeHaan is at first a reluctant hero, certain that disguising the Noordendam as a Spanish freighter flying the flag of a neutral nation that won't attract the attention of the Nazi authorities will never work. The plot takes DeHaan, his crew and a handful of passengers that include a refugee family, a beautiful woman, and a mysterious Russian through the dangerous waters of the Mediterranean, the North Sea, and the Baltic. Putting DeHaan ashore in the exotic port cities affords Furst an opportunity to evoke the sights, smells and atmosphere of Alexandria's waterfront alleys, Lisbon's intrigue-filled cafes, and Tangier's shadowy souks, which he does with consummate skill. Maintaining a measured but never lagging pace, Furst takes the Noordendam on its final dangerous voyage past the Baltic Fleet in a tour de force by a writer who's inherited the mantle of Eric Ambler and Graham Greene and wears it as if it had been custom tailored for him. --Jane Adams --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

It's no secret by now that Furst is a superlative chronicler of World War II, and his new novel is a splendid addition to an accomplished body of work that includes The Polish Officer and the bestselling Blood of Victory. His mastery of the atmosphere of that era—its brusque heroes and heroines, its sudden explosions of violence, its strange black glamour—is the fruit of tireless research and an empathetic imagination. His hero this time around is a blunt Dutch sea captain, E.M. DeHaan, whose sturdy but aging merchant vessel is pressed into service on behalf of the British Navy by the exiled Dutch naval intelligence group in London. Disguising his boat as a neutral Spanish freighter, DeHaan somberly and grudgingly takes it several times into harm's way, ferrying British commandos on a North African raid, taking munitions to the beleaguered British garrison on Crete and then, most dangerous of all, on a secret mission to Sweden's Baltic coast. The marine details are so authentic the reader can smell the oil and the brine, and the characters who come aboard and into the captain's life—a valuable Polish naval officer in exile, a Jewish refugee who becomes the ship's doctor, a Russian woman journalist fleeing the Soviets, with whom DeHaan enjoys a brief and dry-eyed romance—are sketched with concise brilliance. The book casts such a spell with its exact evocations of time, place and language that one could swear Furst was a Brit writing out of his own experience in 1941 rather than an American writing today.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 31, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812967968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812967968
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lonya VINE VOICE on October 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Dark Voyage represents something of a departure from Alan Furst's previous series of historical spy novels set in Europe just before and during the Second World War. Typically, Furst's novels are land-based and are set in cafes, bars, and furtive meeting places in Bucharest, Prague, Berlin, and Paris. His protagonists are typically Polish, Rumanian, Russian, and French émigrés or refugees caught in a tangled web of espionage, and counter-espionage as the NKVD and other underground groups do battle with the Nazis. Deceit is the rule, not the exception. It is a world of night and dark shadows.

Dark Voyage, at least on the surface, is a bit different. Dark Voyage is not set amongst the smoky bistros of occupied Paris, Bucharest, or Warsaw. The action is set at sea, on board the M/V Noordendam, a Dutch cargo ship captained by Eric deHaan. The Noordendam, an aging tramp steamer nearing the end of its useful life at sea, is pressed into service by the Royal Navy. DeHaan and his crew and and passengers, including a Polish engineer, a Jewish medical orderly fleeing the Nazis, a beautiful Russian `journalist' fleeing in fear from her Soviet bosses, and others are asked to undertake three missions, each one more dangerous than the last. The Noordendam, repainted and sailing under the colors of a sunken, neutral Spanish merchant ship, the M/V Santa Rosa delivers munitions and supplies to the British Expeditionary Forces in Crete; transports British commandos to conduct a raid on the North African Coast in Tunisia; and then up through the Baltic Sea on a secret mission that could save Britain from annihilation during the blitz.

Despite this difference in setting the essential elements that render Furst's novels so downright enjoyable remain in place.
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Format: Hardcover
Alan Furst's literary domain is Europe -- mostly eastern and central Europe -- in those few years on either side of 1939, when Europe stood on the brink of World War Two and then plunged headlong into chaos. What is most enticing about Furst's works is that he creates such a convincing atmosphere that breathes with the life of that place and time. I am one of those readers who habitually translate the printed page into mental picture, and in the case of Furst's novels I find the movie playing in my mind to be appropriately in cinematic black and white. I half expect Peter Lorre to be lurking in a dark doorway or Sidney Greenstreet to be behind that beaded curtain.

Alan Furst's new book, "Dark Voyage", is from the familiar period and area -- 1941 Europe -- but there is something of a departure this time around in that the primary setting is a ship, the Dutch tramp steamer Noordendam under the command of Eric DeHaan, ship and captain pressed into the service of the Naval Intelligence arm of the Dutch Government in exile, clandestinely transporting under false colors people and material to wherever orders require. The cast of characters, as always, is a mixture of diverse and uncertain nationalities, appropriate in an era when nationalities themselves were shifting at the whim of events. I found "Dark Voyage" to be a compelling, if episodic, reading experience as the weary Dutch freighter and her weary crew go about the dark business of a shadow war.

Furst's book are not a series, although a minor character in one book may turn up as the central figure in another, and can generally be read without any particular order. And for those of you who are familiar with Furst's novels, yes, Table Fourteen at the Brasserie Heininger in Paris does make its customary appearance.
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Format: Hardcover
You have to like this period of time. I don't mean "like" in the sense that it held the permissive excitement of the roaring twenties or the emotional promiscuity of the sixties, but 'like'as in fascinated. Like as in haunted. Like as in troubled.

Additionally, it is the true Armageddon of our memory, of our time. Hitler and Stalin ARE the evil empire and should they be victorious, the world would be oh so different than it is now.

Finally, I think if you read about that time, whether it's the novels of Deaver or Diehl or Woods on the one hand or the extraordinary Beevor's "Stalingrad" and "The Fall of Berlin," or Ambrose' "Easy Company" or Ryan's "D-Day," one gets the sense that for the Europeans, it wan't all black and white and no, John Wayne and Robert Mitchum didn't epitomize it. Nor Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

So Alan Furst brings to the table a series of novels not in black and white but in gray. Where the characters are motivated by doing the right thing but, where is that damn right thing? And how much of this morality do I have to extrapolate? And are there situational ethics that no one's written about? And do my handlers really care if I win or not, or just that I put on "a bloody good show, mate." And what is winning, anyhow? Is it living? On some days, is it just surviving?

Here Eric DeHaan, Ship's Captain, is seduced by Dutch Naval Intelligence. Well, "seduced" implies some volition on his part and clearly, if at all, there is little. His ship, the M/V Noordendam, will be used not so much for tramp steaming but to change it's name to the Santa Rosa, a South American steamer bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Noordendam, and carry men and material to be used against the Nazi effort. Which by now is most of Europe.
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