"In 1939, as the armies of Europe mobilized for war, the British secret services undertook operations to impede the exportation of Roumanian oil to Germany. They failed.
Then, in the autumn of 1940, they tried again."
So begins Blood of Victory, a novel rich with suspense, historical insight, and the powerful narrative immediacy we have come to expect from bestselling author Alan Furst. The book takes its title from a speech given by a French senator at a conference on petroleum in 1918: "Oil," he said, "the blood of the earth, has become, in time of war, the blood of victory."
November 1940. The Russian writer I. A. Serebin arrives in Istanbul by Black Sea freighter. Although he travels on behalf of an émigré organization based in Paris, he is in flight from a dying and corrupt Europespecifically, from Nazi-occupied France. Serebin finds himself facing his fifth war, but this time he is an exile, a man without a country, and there is no army to join. Still, in the words of Leon Trotsky, "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." Serebin is recruited for an operation run by Count Janos Polanyi, a Hungarian master spy now working for the British secret services.
The battle to cut Germany's oil supply rages through the spy haunts of the Balkans; from the Athenée Palace in Bucharest to a whorehouse in Izmir; from an elegant yacht club in Istanbul to the river docks of Belgrade; from a skating pond in St. Moritz to the fogbound banks of the Danube; in sleazy nightclubs and safe houses and nameless hotels; amid the street fighting of a fascist civil war.
Blood of Victory is classic Alan Furst, combining remarkable authenticity and atmosphere with the complexity and excitement of an outstanding spy thriller. As Walter Shapiro of Time magazine wrote, "Nothing can be like watching Casablanca for the first time, but Furst comes closer than anyone has in years."
The New Yorker
Densely atmospheric and genuinely romantic, the novel is most reminiscent of the Hollywood films of the forties, when moral choices were rendered not in black-and-white but in smoky shades of gray.
Critics who thought Furst's previous novel Kingdom of Shadows lacked a clearly linear plot will find much to praise him for in his toothsome new historical espionage thriller....even newcomers will be ensnared by Furst's delicious recreations of a world sliding headlong into oblivion.
Library Journal - Barbara Hoffert
Most of the time, Serebin is in the dark, and so is the reader - a stylistic impulse that mimics the experience of World War II but can create some frustration and a sense of distance from the text. Nevertheless, Furst's spy work is some of the best around.
Booklist - Bill Ott
Starred Review. In some ways, this isn't Furst at his best the plot huffs and puffs its way to a climax on the Danube, where Serebin and some Resistance cohorts slug it out with the Nazis in an overly stage-managed brawl. But Furst creates mood and place so superbly that we really don't care if the action is less than top drawer. It's that teeming Balkans setting we're after, that sense that behind every cup of espresso, there is a plot to overthrow some government or other--and behind every plot there is a woman dressed in silk waiting to be caressed. That's what turns even the best cynics into soldiers, and that's why a Furst novel hardly needs a plot at all.
Declared "a master" by Time magazine, Ken Follett returns with Code to Zero - a page-turning novel of suspense in the bestselling tradition of Eye of the Needle, The Key to Rebecca, and The Man from St. Petersburg.
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