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Spies of the Balkans: A Novel Hardcover – June 15, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Set in Greece in 1940, this powerful WWII thriller from Furst (The Spies of Warsaw) focuses on Costa Zannis, a senior Salonika police official known for his honesty and ability to settle matters before they got out of hand. As the Nazis' intentions for Europe's Jews becomes clear, Zannis goes out of his way to aid refugees seeking to escape Germany. When Mussolini's troops invade Greece, Zannis joins the army, where he meets Capt. Marko Pavlic, who as a policeman in Zagreb investigated crimes committed by the Ustashi, Croatian fascists. With their similar politics, Zannis and Pavlic soon become friends and allies. Subtle details foreshadow the coming crimes perpetrated by the Nazis in the Balkans. For example, Zannis learns from a colleague that someone has been taking photos of the contents of a synagogue so that the Germans can more easily identify what to plunder. Furst fans will welcome seeing more books set in less familiar parts of Europe. (June)
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Spies of the Balkans is a cut above the usual espionage fare; it excels in plot, character, and atmosphere--an unusual combination for the genre. Zannis, a younger prototype of characters seen in Furst's previous novels, especially captivated critics, as did the author's "Furstland," "a twilight realm of people on the run--refugees, Jews, leftists and others out of political favor" (Denver Post). Richly researched, the novel offers a compelling portrait of wartime, with few clichés. Only the Chicago Sun-Times criticized some less-developed characters and the plethora of historical detail. Most readers, however, will find that there "is no more intelligent or gripping writer of spy fiction today than Alan Furst" (Daily Beast).
Top customer reviews
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Zannis’ lover, a British woman named Roxanne, introduces him to an Englishman who is also a spy. Zannis soon has ‘skin in the game’ and sets up a railway route that will help persecuted Jews in Berlin avoid deportation to a death camp. An excellent map at the book’s beginning shows the Balkan escape route from Berlin through Prague, Vienna, Belgrade, Nis, and finally Salonika. We read of a prominent Jewish couple, the Gruens, and how they manage to leave Berlin one step ahead of the Gestapo, thanks to Zannis’ covert actions.
Love affairs in times of war seem to come and go in Furst’s historical novels. As Hitler’s Wehrmacht divisions drive closer to Greece, Zannis begins another one with Demetria, wife of a Greek shipping magnate. Danger lurks around every corner and, because Zannis’ spy activities require much travel and Demetria must deal with her husband in Athens, the two lovers never know when their day together will be their last.
It’s an interesting read, sometimes exciting, and it captures the tragedy of refugees during WWII in a part of Europe that is not often the setting of a novel.
The main character here and associated characters are not professional spy's or resisters. They are more like ordinary people caught up in the events of their time but rather then remaining passive or untouched they respond against the evil all around them. The characters are richly filled out and the plot is exciting. You cannot really guess the outcome. The writing is superb and this book as well as the others in the series ranks in the top tier of the genre.
Most recent customer reviews
This was my first time reading a Furst novel--I liked the genre, the...Read more