Monday, February 22, 2016
Review of Dark Star by Alan Furst (Phoenix, 1991)
Dark Star is the second book in Alan Furst’s Night Soldier’s series set in 1930s and 40s Europe. Like the first in the series, the tale is an epic adventure traversing several countries including Belgium, Germany, Czechoslovakia, France, Poland and Russia, tracking the fortunes of André Szara, a foreign correspondent for Pravda and reluctant Russian spymaster, over a four year period. Like the geography and time frame, the scope of the story is similarly expansive revolving around a conspiracy within the NKVD related to Stalin and his purges and German/Soviet relations pre-war. Szara unwittingly stumbles into the middle of a secretive and deadly game of cat-and-mouse and is thrust into its centre. Despite its expansiveness, Furst keeps a tight grip on the storytelling setting out a complex and layered plot in 400 pages. It’s a remarkable feat given the richness in the descriptions of people, politics, situations and places and the well-developed characterisation. Szara, in particular, and his various interactions and reflexive thoughts is nicely penned. The plot does become a little convoluted and seemingly fanciful at times – Szara is certainly blessed with a lot of luck – but it is also compelling and very well contextualised with respect to the events and manoeuvring of the time. The result is a gripping tale of espionage and a man living on the edge.