Blood of Victory

Written by Alan Furst
Review by Mark F. Johnson

This latest tale from Furst opens on the Black Sea in November of 1940. Once again a man without a country, this time Russian writer I. A. Serebin, becomes the central character in a battle to thwart the Nazi juggernaut as it rolls roughshod over Eastern Europe. His goal is to sink a small fleet of barges to block shipments of Romanian oil, the Blood of Victory, to the German war machine.

Like all of Furst’s characters, Serebin finds himself in an inextricable position, a pawn caught between giants. He’s a key player with a very low profile who slips in and out of shadowy ports and sleazy bars, always one step ahead of death. A consummate Auslander, he’s a different person to everyone who meets him.

This story is like exploring a cave: dark, cold, foreboding, and thoroughly enjoyable. As I read this book and imagined the scenes as they unfolded, I couldn’t help but think in black-and-white. Color doesn’t fit here, only various shades of gray. There’s nothing uplifting and nothing much to smile about, save the author’s occasional wit, which is very dry and much too rarely shown.