Furst, Alan - 'The Spies of Warsaw'
Since before the First World War the British have excelled at the spy story, from one "JB" (John Buchan) to another, the still-going-strong James Bond. But spy fiction is no longer a closed shop. For some years now, American writers have been crafting fine tales of espionage, often with historical settings.
Without doubt the best practitioner of this particular art is Alan Furst. His reputation as an elegant writer and creator of quite haunting characters has grown steadily over the last twenty years and will be further enhanced by THE SPIES OF WARSAW. Set in 1937 Warsaw, the plot revolves around a French military intelligence officer (a contemporary of a certain Captain Charles de Gaulle) and his dealings with both Russian and German spies in a Europe soon to go to war.
The espionage and the "trade craft" described is low-key, un-dramatic and almost certainly completely accurate and not for a minute does Furst allow the reader to forget that this is a dirty business where the stakes are high and the spies, many of them reluctant ones, can be sometimes brave and noble but are always afraid.
The most chilling thing in the book however, is when the hero travels from Poland to Czechoslovakia and his train rattles at high speed through "the little station at Oswiecim" - a place now better known by its German name, Auschwitz.
Mike Ripley, England
Mike Ripley is the author of the 'Angel' series and writes a regular column for the Birmingham Post.