Alan Furst homes in on the French Resistance in Red Gold, the fifth of the 13 novels in his “Night Soldiers” series that have been appearing regularly since 1988. His mastery of the moods and the political environment in Europe before and during the Second World War is unexcelled, and the flawed, believable characters he writes about cause him to be regularly compared to Graham Greene and Eric Ambler, who were regarded as the masters of spy fiction decades before him.
Red Gold features a former film producer named Jean Casson who finds himself forced to become involved in espionage and sabotage in France early in World War II. In telling the story, Furst spotlights the tension and distrust among the several factions involved in the Resistance, from the loyal army officers on the staff of the puppet Petain to the Gaullist forces headquartered in London and the well-organized Communist underground. Casson’s role as liaison among the various factions gives him a unique vantage point on the complex relationships among these contending groups, each of them positioning itself for what was shaping up as a civil war that would follow the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Red Gold (Night Soldiers #5) by Alan Furst @@@@ (4 out of 5)
Alan Furst’s romantic take on the French Resistance
Furst’s novels have a formulaic element, in that every one features a reluctant hero — Casson fits that bill to a T — as well as a love story. However, there’s nothing formulaic about either the circumstances or the locales Furst chooses, shifting from Eastern Europe to Spain to France and Greece and back. Even minor characters leap off the page, fully formed. As a guide to the reality of life as it was experienced by Europeans during World War II, there’s no one better than Alan Furst.
If you’re looking for blockbuster spy fiction in the tradition of Ian Fleming, with superhero agents and larger-than-life master criminals, you won’t find Alan Furst’s work to be satisfying. However, if you crave realistic stories and credible characters based on thorough historical research, you’ll find it difficult to put down any of his novels.
For additional reading
This book is included in The evocative Night Soldiers series from Alan Furst.
My posts 5 top nonfiction books about World War II (plus many runners-up), The 10 best novels about World War II (plus 19 runners-up), and Good books about the French Resistance may also interest you.
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