Pan-European Lives: Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst

Spies of the BalkansI’ve never considered myself a “series” reader. You know, the kind of person who likes to read novels by a particular author that are part of an extend series of books. Frequently, these books share common characters, locations and/or historical settings. While many readers love this kind of thing, traditionally, it’s never been my cup of tea. That is, until now.

Enter Alan Furst. A few months ago during one of my weekend library visits I stumbled on a copy of his 2014 novel Midnight in Europe. After enjoying the heck out of it, I was happy to discover it’s actually the latest book in his Night Soldiers series. According to Wikipedia, there’s 13 books in the series, all set in Europe during World War Two or the interwar period of the 1930s. Armed with this knowledge I later returned to the public library and grabbed The Spies of Warsaw. After finishing that one I went back to the library looking for more. After rummaging through what was available on the shelf I settled on his Spies of the Balkans, probably because that part of the world has always fascinated me.

Just like I did with Midnight in Europe and The Spies of Europe I whipped through Spies of the Balkans quickly, enjoying it as I went along. Although I’ve read only three of the Night Soldiers novels. already I’m starting to pick out a number of similarities.

  • War on the horizon: With Midnight in Europe and The Spies of the Warsaw set in the late 30s, WWII is only a few years away. Spies of the Balkans begins in 1940 with the repulsed Italian invasion of Greece. Even though Greece is safe for the moment, everyone knows the Germans are on their way.
  • A single, mature (but not terribly older) male protagonist: Old enough to be in a position of responsibility but not too old to be a daring man of action when needed. Being single allows him a  romantic adventure. (However, unlike the vintage James Bond character, he doesn’t use women and toss them aside. He’s refreshingly honorable and romantic.)
  • A wide spectrum of supporting characters from across Europe.
  • One Continental city serves as home base, but the action takes place throughout Europe: In Midnight in Europe it was Paris. In The Spies of Warsaw it was Warsaw. With Spies of the Balkans it’s Salonica, Greece. And just like the two previously mentioned novels, all of Europe serves host to Furst’s adventures.
  • Lastly, no matter where the novel is set, there’s always a side trip to Paris.

Like I mentioned at the start, I enjoyed Spies of the Balkans. Of the three Furst novels I’ve read so far, Midnight in Europe is still my favorite. I’d probably rank this one neck and neck with The Spies of Warsaw.

With another one of Alan Furst’s novels under by belt, what’s up next? Will it be Mission to Paris? Or how about Red Gold or Kingdom of Shadows? I guess you’ll have to stick around to find out.

9 thoughts on “Pan-European Lives: Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst

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