Midnight in Europe

Written by Alan Furst
Review by Mary F. Burns

Readers of Furst’s excellent inter-war espionage novels will find themselves in familiar territory for this one. It is the end of 1937, and although it begins in Manhattan (an unusual place for Furst’s spies), the action quickly shifts back to France, Germany, Poland, Russia and Spain. The protagonist, a Spaniard named Cristián Ferrar, is an attorney for an old, established law firm with offices in the U.S. and Europe, and he is enlisted to aid the valiant but failing rebels in the Spanish Civil War. Illegal purchase and transport of armaments is the name of the game, which is played out under the growing Nazi menace and Soviet duplicitousness.

Although there are some excellently drawn minor characters, Cristián is somewhat two-dimensional: like other Furst spies, he is lean and dark, silent and mysterious, a magnet for the ladies, and possessed of the kind of luck that allows him to narrowly escape while others are, sadly, killed or captured. Furst brings out the “usual suspects” of his previous narratives—the overweight, falsely hearty Russian bear with long-limbed eye candy clinging to his arms, the gruff but patriotic sailors and captains, and the seductive lady spy who falls for Cristián (of course). It feels a bit half-hearted, like Furst is more going through the motions than coming up with something new, but fans will enjoy the suspense and the crisp descriptions of the places Cristián visits.