“Kingdom of Shadows must be called a spy novel, but it transcends genre, as did some Graham Greene and Eric Ambler classics.”—The Washington Post
Paris, 1938. As Europe edges toward war, Nicholas Morath, an urbane former cavalry officer, spends his days working at the small advertising agency he owns and his nights in the bohemian circles of his Argentine mistress. But Morath has been recruited by his uncle, Count Janos Polanyi, a diplomat in the Hungarian legation, for operations against Hitler’s Germany. It is Morath who does Polanyi’s clandestine work, moving between the beach cafés of Juan-les-Pins and the forests of Ruthenia, from Czech fortresses in the Sudetenland to the private gardens of the déclassé royalty in Budapest. The web Polanyi spins for Morath is deep and complex and pits him against German intelligence officers, NKVD renegades, and Croat assassins in a shadow war of treachery and uncertain loyalties, a war that Hungary cannot afford to lose. Alan Furst is frequently compared with Eric Ambler, Graham Greene, and John le Carré, but Kingdom of Shadows is distinctive and entirely original. It is Furst at his very best.
Praise for Kingdom of Shadows
“Kingdom of Shadows offers a realm of glamour and peril that are seamlessly intertwined and seem to arise effortlessly from the author’s consciousness.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Subtly spun, sensitive to nuances, generous with contemporary detail and information discreetly conveyed. . . . It’s hard to overestimate Kingdom of Shadows.”—Eugen Weber, Los Angeles Times
“A triumph: evocative, heartfelt, knowing and witty.”—Robert J. Hughes, The Wall Street Journal
“Imagine discovering an unscreened espionage thriller from the late 1930s, a classic black- and- white movie that captures the murky allegiances and moral ambiguity of Europe on the brink of war. . . . Nothing can be like watching Casablanca for the first time, but Furst comes closer than anyone has in years.”—Walter Shapiro, Time
The desperation of "stateless" people trying to escape the Nazi redrawing of the European map in the late 1930s pervades Furst's (Night Soldiers; Red Gold, etc.) marvelous sixth espionage thriller. On a rainy night in 1938, the train from Budapest pulls into Paris bearing Nicholas Morath, a playboy Hungarian expatriate and sometime spy for his uncle, a wealthy Hungarian diplomat based in the French capital. Morath, a veteran hero of the Great War and a Parisian for many years, now finds himself forced to rely on former enemies to try to rescue Eastern European fugitives displaced by Hitler's aggression. His eclectic circle includes a Russian gangster, a pair of destitute but affable near-tramps, and a smooth-talking SS officer. Smuggling forged passports, military intelligence documents and cash through imminent war zones, Morath time and again returns in thankless triumph to the glittering salons of Paris. Furst expertly weaves Morath's apparently unconnected assignments into the web of a crucial 11th-hour international conspiracy to topple Hitler before all-out war engulfs Europe again, counterbalancing scenes of fascist-inspired chaos with the sounds, smells and anxieties of a world dancing on the edge of apocalypse. The novel is more than just a cloak-and-dagger thrill ride; it is a time machine, transporting readers directly into the dread period just before Europe plunged into its great Wagnerian g tterd mmerung. This is Furst's best book since The Polish Officer, and in it he proves himself once again a master of literary espionage.