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BOOK REVIEW: THE SPIES OF WARSAW
BY ALAN FURST
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Other reviewers have noted that readers usually know how Furst's books will turn out. After all, he sets many of them in the years just prior to WWII, so the general outlines of history are familiar to us. Yet Furst is so skillful at building characters that the books remain engrossing, since we will wonder exactly what happened to the specific people we are reading about.
A French military attache based in Warsaw seeks to learn German plans for a potential invasion of France. Sharing the skepticism of DeGaulle, Mercier investigates the German industries building tanks and other military hardware, while evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the counterparts in France. He is not encouraged by what he learns.
His work of necessity involves recruiting spies to help ferret out details. And a marvelous parade of peripheal characters begins; a German engineer seduced by a penniless Polish "countess"; a deeply religious retired couple hiking through mountainous areas on "holiday", all the while observing military exercises underway; a forlorn teacher maneuvered into recruiting a former colleage to abscond with important papers; and a "film crew" scouting locations for a movie praising the charms of a small community, where German army vehicles just happen to be located.
But the book is not all spies and subterfuge. Mercier meets a beautiful attorney at a diplomatic party; he visits his family's farm, where the deterioration of declining finances can be seen everywhere; and does his best to be loyal to his country while coping with the frustration of dealing with his short-sighted superior officers.
Furst's latest is a very entertaining read.
REVIEWED BY WOODSTOCK
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