A Hero of France
If you’re looking for an excellent spy thriller, check out A Hero of France, published in 2016. It’s the first book by Alan Furst I’ve read, but he has written many. Furst is considered the master of historical spy novels and I can see why. In A Hero of France, a man known as Mathieu leads an important cell in the French Resistance. They are helping downed RAF pilots escape occupied France, so that the men can get back in the air and beat the Germans.
There’s nothing complicated about their goal. It’s both practical and patriotic. But no life can be more complex, and dangerous, than the secretive life of a Resistance leader. Set in Paris, in 1941, Mathieu has collected a group of loyal resisters, including an arms dealer/nightclub owner, a teenage girl who works as a bicycle messenger, a wealthy woman of the upper class, a Jewish teacher and a young female aristocrat. On another floor of the abandoned Saint-Yves hotel where Mathieu is based lives Joëlle, who has fallen in love with her mysterious neighbor.
This fast-paced story starts with one successful crossing and progresses into more complex arrangements involving an ace Polish pilot who needs to get back in the war. Mathieu must depend on instinct and nerve to make the right decisions about the contacts he makes. Some are ruthless and some can’t be trusted, including those who say they want to get in the game and a British connection with another agenda. Soon a German investigator is sent to their Paris office, charged with hunting down resisters.
Furst gives readers a good look at Paris during the German occupation, at a time before the United States entered the war. Curfews, blacked out windows, dangerous streets and more dangerous skies set the way of life for all Parisians.
I thoroughly enjoyed this historical story. It’s a quick read and is both entertaining and educational and I recommend it to readers who like historical fiction and stories about spies and intrigue.
I look forward to reading more books by Alan Furst.
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