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A New Thriller from the Master

Midnight In Europe. By Alan Furst. Random House, 2014. 251 pages. $27.00.

Rating:
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Christián Ferrar is a randy Spanish ex-pat living in Paris in the late 1930s and working as a lawyer in Paris and New York for a prestigious law firm. The Spanish Civil War is raging, and Ferrar, a committed supporter of the Republic, is approached and asked to help the outgunned Republicans buy guns and ammunition. (The Republic is under an arms embargo. Neither the U.S., Great Britain, nor France will send aid, but the fascist states of Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy are pouring arms, men and munitions into the unequal struggle. Only Stalin’s Soviet Union lends material support to the Republic, and for that, they exact an awful price.)

To complicate matters, Christián is in love with a woman he sees only when he’s in New York, and shortly after the book opens, she tells him she is pregnant and will marry the baby’s father.

Shortly thereafter, he meets the marquesa, a beautiful woman sent by Franco’s agents to spy on him, using her womanly wiles to undo him. Christián is no fool and soon understands what the marquesa is up to, but he feels pity for her. Her sister is in the hands of the fascists, and if she doesn’t produce what they want, both she and the sister will simply disappear. He beds her and does what he can to save her.

On top of all this, he has his family to worry about. He knows that war is coming, and if his extended family, whom he supports, doesn’t get out of Europe when the shooting starts, they will surely die.

The main action of the story is two audacious efforts to aid the Republican cause: the purchase of a shipload of anti-tank guns, and the theft of a shipload of anti-aircraft shells from an arsenal in the Soviet Union.

The suspense is great, the pace brisk, and the history spot on in this lively tale of one man’s efforts to make a difference in a time when brutal forces were intent on demolishing everything that makes civilized life worth living.

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