Paris 1940. The civilised, upper-class life of film producer Jean Casson ends with the German occupation of the city. Out of money and almost out of luck, Casson attempts to work with a German film company but finds himself drawn into the dark world of espionage and double agents. More used to evading jealous husbands than the secret police, Casson beomes a reluctant spy, torn between honour, patriotism, love and survival.
With uninspired plotting, Furst makes disappointing use of a vividly evoked wartime Paris in his latest WWII espionage novel (The Polish Officer; Dark Star; Night Soldiers). Hedonistic Parisian film producer Jean Casson thrives in Paris's active film industry, enjoying the colorful social scene, the posh restaurants and the beautiful, available women. But this world he knows so well all but disappears when Germans march into France and seize the city. At first, Casson strives merely to survive, but he's soon drawn into duty as an amateur intelligence operative and finds himself in a precarious position, buffeted by British Intelligence, resistance forces and the Gestapo. In the process, Casson discovers two powerful forces within himself--his patriotism and his consuming passion for an old lover, the beautiful actress Citrine. Furst brings this fascinating, historic Paris to life with his usual masterful use of period detail. But while Casson makes an intriguing protagonist, his relationships with other characters are presented rather schematically--in particular, his affair with Citrine, which ultimately proves so influential, is never satisfactorily developed. More importantly, Casson's career as a spy, marked by mixed success on missions that seem insignificant, is anticlimactic and a bit confusing. In the end, the novel never attains the dramatic pitch of Furst's recent The Polish Officer.