I’m going to assume if you’ve been reading my blog over the last year, you know about my recent obsession with the historical thrillers of Alan Furst. During the second half of 2014 I devoured seven of his novels, thoroughly enjoying each one. Published over a 25 year period, his acclaimed Night Soldiers series of 13 books expertly and effortlessly propel readers to continental Europe during the years leading up to the Second World War, or the first year years of the conflict prior to American involvement. While Furst’s Europe is overflowing with old world charm and sophistication, there’s also no shortage of dangerous intrigue and death. Reading one of Furst’s novels is like stepping inside a world of old memories and legends that have been forgotten for 75 years.
But read enough books by any particular author, no matter how personally beloved and chances are you’re going to encounter one of his/her book you probably don’t like. Of course, the book doesn’t even have to be terrible and leave you feeling majorly disappointed. Simply, it could have just felt a bit flat. Unfortunately, that is how I felt after reading Alan Furst’s 1996 novel The World at Night.
You might remember from my previous post the high expectations I had for The World at Night when I spotted a copy at my local public library. On top of it, after reading Tom Gabbay’s Alan Fust-like novel The Lisbon Crossing, I was definitely in the mood for a little Alan Fust. A bit into The World at Night, I felt optimistic since the novel seemed to possess all the elements common to a Furst thriller: an honorable, intelligent and mature protagonist forced to play secret agent, war and/or the threat of war, romance, international intrigue, travel, danger and a Paris setting. But even this, combined with Furst’s unrivaled ability to transport the reader to a time and place long forgotten I never fully warmed up to The World at Night. To me, something seemed missing.
I wonder what that missing “something” could be. Could it be the tighter narrative and therefore faster pace of his later novels Midnight in Europe or Mission to Paris? Could it be greater abundance of shadowy and intriguing supporting characters of The Spies of Warsaw or Kingdom of Shadows? Or even the larger geographic scope and “big picture” discussion of history Furst employed in The Polish Officer?
However, regardless of my mild disappointment, I’m confident I’ll be back working my way through the remaining novels of Furst Night Soldiers series before I know it. A few months ago I received a hand me down copy of Furst’s 2005 thriller Dark Voyage. Before summer’s end I’d like to read it, along with Blood of Victory and perhaps Dark Star. So with that in mind, be ready to see a few more of Furst’s novels featured on my blog.