Dark Star

Written by Alan Furst
Review by Mark F. Johnson

Set in the area between Germany and Russia known as The Pale of Settlement in the years immediately prior to WWII, this spellbinding story follows Tass journalist André Szara on his journey from occasional informant for the NKVD to full-fledged spy master. Along the way Szara, a Russia Jew, teams up with a British nobleman to help Jews emigrate to the future Israel, falls in love with one of his operatives, and generally stays one step ahead of a litany of folks who would like to see him dead.

Alan Furst is the tough act to follow when it comes to historical spy novels: Dark Star is further proof of that. His characters are always regular folks who happen to find themselves pawns of the powers-that-be. Yet they always have a knack for survival, a will to live just for the sake of denying satisfaction from those who would see them dead. While each of his novels has its own underdog hero, characters from other novels frequently reappear, lending a subtle credibility to his stories. It’s like historical voyeurism on a grand scale. The reader gets to enjoy each microcosm while still maintaining ties to the big picture. It makes for fascinating reading.