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At the center of this drama is Costa Zannis, a senior police official, head of an office that handles special political cases. As war approaches, the spies begin to circle, from the Turkish legation to the German secret service. There's a British travel writer, a Bulgarian undertaker, and more.
Costa Zannis must deal with them all. And he is soon in the game, securing an escape route from Berlin to Salonika, and then to a tenuous safety in Turkey, a route protected by German lawyers, Balkan detectives, and Hungarian gangsters. And hunted by the Gestapo.
Meanwhile, as war threatens, the erotic life of the city grows passionate. For Zannis, that means a British expatriate who owns the local ballet academy, a woman from the dark side of Salonika society, and the wife of a local shipping magnate.
Declared an incomparable expert at his game by The New York Times, Alan Furst outdoes even his own finest novels in this thrilling new book. With extraordinary authenticity, a superb cast of characters, and heart-stopping tension as it moves from Salonika to Paris to Berlin and back, Spies of the Balkans is a stunning novel about a man who risks everything to right - in many small ways - the world's evil.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By writerly on 06-20-10
historical insights, not much suspense/tension
I'm familiar with The Polish Officer and Dark Star and I was incredibly disappointed with this book. Admittedly, I am interested in spy/espionage/thrillers with tension and suspense driving the characters. This book seemed mired in historical details piled upon details, most of which led nowhere, dramatically speaking, but more a statement by the author about his take on events past. A comparison, though perhaps not a perfect one, would be a very knowledgable history teacher telling a story set in the past in another locale, only to abandon storytelling frequently and elaborate on historical events at that time and place.
Perfunctory bits about the protagonist recalling women brushing up against him, musing about their name, sketching a past event with them, never had me engaged in relationships with them, therefore no sense of loss when things didn't work out, when they were left behind and lost.
Long sections attempting by the author to get into the heart of darkness of a man at odds with his environs and associates, felt like verbal angst from the author, not from character actions and resulting reactions. There were so many characters that in depth exploration was usually a stated opinion of the first person speaker, not displayed by characters Events were introduced in a way that built predictability of their outcome, drained suspense from one section to the next.
It was an effort to stay with this reading until the end, though the reader's character interpretations were captivating in tone at times. I'm not sure of the primary interest of readers who praise it but it's not a book I recommend for hounds of spy, thriller, espionage stories against international and historical backdrops..
15 of 16 people found this review helpful
By Darwin8u on 11-14-13
A sweet Kataïfi of a novel
I loved 'Spies of the Balkans' (Night Soldiers #11). It wasn't Furst's best in the series, but it was a sweet Kataïfi of a novel. Emotionally this was a novel that fed me. Furst highlights the little things people do with just a little nudge to make a dark world just a bit better. 'Spies of the Balkans' is about the sacrifices people made during fascism's push into Southern Europe.
The novel centers around Costa Zannis, a senior police official in Salonika, who sometimes finds his talents needed by both the Jews seeking to escape Germany and British spy networks. It is a novel that drips with the hidden goodness of those amazing men and women who refused to let dark circumstances dictate their character.
Daniel Gerroll does an excellent job of narrating Spies of the Balkans. He has narrated the last three (Spies of Warsaw, Spies of Balkans, Mission to Paris) and has done a great job with Furst. It is kinda like James Bond. I love the classic Furst narrator (Guidall narrated Night Solders # 1 - 8), but have also really enjoyed Gerroll.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful