The Spies of Warsaw (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
As the nations of Europe posture and prepare for war in the autumn of 1937, an intricate subculture of spies and sumptuous living thrives. Initially Alan Furst’s The Spies of Warsaw appears to be a rather mundane tale of the daily life of mediocre agents: clandestine meetings, bits and pieces of boring information exchanged in protracted secret. Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier has retired from distinguished military service during the war to end all wars (World War I) and has settled into a bureaucratic job. Although it is not his beloved France, there are some gastronomic and other perks seasoned with a dash of minor espionage to be found in Warsaw. Mercier meets periodically with Edvard Uhl, an engineer at an ironworks that produces tanks for the Germans. Uhl proves to be a skittish spy, who only reluctantly provides seemingly innocuous information about tank production.
“Hotel Europejski” starts slowly. The author paints the scenes with care and exquisite detail. Situated in the heart of prewar Warsaw, the hotel is the site of periodic trysts between Uhl and his mysterious mistress, Countess Sczelenska. She captures Uhl’s heart but also manages to snuggle comfortably into his pocketbook. She explains to him that, unless he helps to subsidize her living arrangements, her desperate financial situation will force her to move in with her aunt, who resides in Chicago. He does not want to lose her or at least the comfort of her loving. He...
(The entire section is 1588 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Booklist 104, no. 14 (March 15, 2008): 6.
Forbes 182, no. 7 (October 13, 2008): 20.
Kirkus Reviews 76, no. 8 (April 15, 2008): 383.
Library Journal 133, no. 6 (April 1, 2008): 75.
The New York Times, June 14, 2008, p. 7.
The New York Times Book Review, June 29, 2008, p. 9.
Publishers Weekly 255, no. 15 (April 14, 2008): 35.
The Times Literary Supplement, July 25, 2008, p. 20.
(The entire section is 38 words.)