Summary and book reviews of Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst

Kingdom of Shadows

By Alan Furst

Kingdom of Shadows
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2001,
    239 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2001,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

In spymaster Alan Furst's most electrifying thriller to date, Hungarian aristocrat Nicholas Morath — a hugely charismatic hero — becomes embroiled in a daring and perilous effort to halt the Nazi war machine in eastern Europe.

On the tenth of March 1938, the night train from Budapest pulled into the Gare du Nord a little after four in the morning. There were storms in the Ruhr Valley and down through Picardy and the sides of the wagon-lits glistened with rain. In the station at Vienna, a brick had been thrown at the window of a first-class compartment, leaving a frosted star in the glass. And later that day there'd been difficulties at the frontiers for some of the passengers, so in the end the train was late getting into Paris.

Nicholas Morath, traveling on a Hungarian diplomatic passport, hurried down the platform and headed for the taxi rank outside the station. The first driver in line watched him for a moment, then briskly folded his Paris-Midi and sat up straight behind the wheel. Morath tossed his bag on the floor in the back and climbed in after it. "L'avenue Bourdonnais," he said. "Number eight."

Foreign, the driver thought. Aristocrat. He started his cab and sped along the quai toward...

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About This Reading Guide

Alan Furst describes the area of his interest as "near history." His novels are set between 1933–the date of Adolf Hitler's ascent, with the first Stalinist purges in Moscow coming a year later–and 1945, which saw the end of the war in Europe. The history of this period is well documented. Furst uses books by journalists of the time, personal memoirs–some privately published–autobiographies (many of the prominent individuals of the period wrote them), war and political histories, and characteristic novels written during those years.

"But," he says, "there is a lot more"–for example, period newsreels, magazines, and newspapers, as well as films and music, especially swing and jazz...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Publisher's Weekly

The desperation of stateless people trying to escape the Nazi redrawing of the European map in the late 1930s pervades Furst's marvelous sixth espionage thriller. This is Furst's best book since The Polish Officer, and in it he proves himself once again a master of literary espionage.

Library Journal

Furst has earned deserved acclaim for his lapidary espionage novels (The World at Night, Red Gold), set just before World War II. An exceptional piece of writing, with engaging characters and moments of sharp, unexpected violence, this is recommended for all public libraries.

New York Times

Astonishingly, Alan Furst is not yet a household name. But perhaps the sixth of his supple, elegant European spy novels will do the trick, what with its beguiling sophistication, knowing political overview and utterly assured narrative tone. Mr. Furst is not one of those spy writers who have to strain, name-drop or cook up mind-boggling feats to assure the reader that his hero is an interesting man.

New York Times Book Review

Furst's latest and most impressive novel, Kingdom of Shadows, offers several forays across the political quicksands of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and France just before the Second World War. This densely atmospheric thriller begins in the gilded world of the Parisian haute bourgeoisie, where men look through sheer curtains at the ''ecstatic gray light of a rainy Parisian morning,'' drink from bottles of 1922 Echézeaux and employ the services of courtesans with names like Mimi Moux... Kingdom of Shadows is undeniably intelligent and harrowing.

Boston Globe

Furst's most richly textured and, arguably, finest espionage novel.

Reader Reviews
clara gyorgyey

penomenally well researched writing; some of the spelling of Hungarian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian names are silly but it does not deduct from the ovelall impact. the locales are richly detailed, the timing: perfect.

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