Happy Reading

Toni's bookshelf: read

The Godfather of Kathmandu (Sonchai Jitpleecheep, #4)
Ape House
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Operation Napoleon
Walking Dead
The Sentimentalists
The Heretic Queen
The Midnight House
Cross Fire
Peony in Love
Finding Nouf: A Novel
City of Veils: A Novel
First Daughter
A Place of Hiding
Peter Pan

Toni Osborne's favorite books »

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Spies of the Balkans", by Alan Furst

This historical espionage novel takes us to Salonika in 1940 just as Mussolini decided to invade Greece. It tells the story of Constantine Zannis, a Greek police officer known as Costa who joined the anti-Nazi underground movement during the winter of 1940-41 and became the tail end of an operation to ship Jews out of central Europe into Turkey where they would hopefully be safe from the Nazi regime.

Written in tightly packed sentences , the story focuses on how Costa whose desire to do the right thing takes him into unorthodox corners and how he uses clever methods to get out of one harrowing situation after another. It opens with Costa organizing and running a refugee network, one that starts in Berlin and funnels German Jews through the port of Salonika to safer havens. When the British Secret Intelligence Service gets wind of this, they want to use his network to smuggle a downed British airman, who also happens to be an important scientist, out of occupied France. The action then moves from Salonika to Paris and then to Belgrade.

The author has created a very credible wartime atmosphere and has treated us to a wealth of details into the hardship and despair suffered by the Jewish population and how the Nazi regime decimated them. There is much going on in this complex and intriguing story about a group who tried to save as many lives as possible. The suspense is palatable when we read how Costa and his organisers planned one particular escape route. We live the horrors the Jewish couple went through crossing many European borders with the hope of reaching a safer country. The characters are compelling and deeply caring individuals. Through all this hardship there is even a touch of romance giving us some sultry and amusing moments.

This novel is a fine mix of war time espionage, historical fiction, local colour and sexual mischief.

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