The fourteen Night Soldiers novels Alan Furst has written to date involve spies in Europe in the years leading up to and during World War II. They all take place on dry land—with one exception. In Dark Voyage, Furst takes us to sea on an old Dutch freighter pressed into service in the British war effort. On this clandestine journey, we follow Captain Eric DeHaan of the Noordendam through the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Baltic Seas. The action takes place during the months of April, May, and June 1941, climaxing on June 22nd, when Hitler invaded the USSR.
On a freighter in World War II
Eric DeHaan had always wanted to join the Royal Dutch Navy. Captaining a tramp freighter was a poor substitute. But he gets his wish when the owner of the Netherlands Hyperion Line consents to help the British. DeHaan is commissioned as a lieutenant commander in the Dutch navy but effectively placed under the command of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. On behalf of the British, he undertakes a series of secret missions that take him and his motley crew from one port after another throughout the European and North African theaters of the war.
Dark Voyage (Night Soldiers #8) by Alan Furst (2004) 288 pages @@@@@ (5 out of 5)
A familiar Night Soldiers character
Meanwhile, one of the familiar characters in the Night Soldiers series is embarked on a dangerous journey of his own. He’s a British spy of indeterminate Central European heritage who goes by the name S. Kolb. Masquerading as a Swiss businessman, Kolb travels from one city to another across Europe, never far from capture by Nazi agents. He’s a spy and an occasional assassin. And his path will eventually cross DeHaan’s.
In Dark Voyage, Alan Furst excels in conjuring up the sights, sounds, and smells of Europe during the early years of World War II. This is more than an exciting story about a freighter in World War II. Furst’s research into the history of the period is thorough. The novel is particularly effective in casting light on the sometimes fraught relationships between Britain and its Continental allies and on the logistics of the Nazis’s undersea war on Allied shipping.
In a favorable (and informative) review in the Los Angeles Times (September 4, 2004), Eugen Weber ably summarizes the plot. He concludes writing “Furst ensnares his readers. As usual.”
For additional reading
This book is included in The evocative Night Soldiers series from Alan Furst.
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