The Spies of Warsaw

Alan Furst?s 14th novel opens in late 1937, in a Warsaw menaced by approaching war and teeming with spies of every stripe. Among them is Colonel Jean-François Mercier, an aristocratic French military attach‚ and beau id‚al of the dashing secret agent. Forty-six years old, his tall frame a palimp-
sest of war wounds, he is a melancholy widower. Among the many other spies afoot in these pages is German businessman Edvard Uhl, entrapped by a supposed countess into smuggling information on German tank design to the French. Uhl?s activities come to the attention of some exceedingly unpleasant Nazi secret agents, and his life becomes a problem for Mercier to solve. The only non-spy in this espionage-steeped arena seems to be Anna Szarbek, a lawyer for the League of Nations and Mercier?s serious love interest The novel moves back and forth between Warsaw and Paris with excursions, among them to the Polish-German border where our hero, creeping through the forest in his waxed Barbour field jacket, observes German military preparations and, later, to the Black Forest, where he wit-
nesses tank maneuvers. Both forays produce evidence suggesting German plans of attack for invasions of Poland and France. If you think Mercier manages to convince anyone with authority to act on his discoveries, you have forgotten your history. What we have here is a thrilling, cleverly plotted re-creation of the sort of hugger-mugger, double-dealing, and wishful thinking that marked the last crepuscular years before full-scale war plunged Europe into darkness.

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

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