Review published on June 19, 2017.
Alan Furst has written yet another brilliant spy thriller set in the Second World War and based in France and, without saying as much, points out not everyone acted honourably. This is about the very few heroes that were left in France after its fall in 1940 who helped the allied war effort by placing their lives in danger by running escape lines for downed airman from the RAF. While the majority did nothing but look the other way, while civil servants and police collaborated along with the Vichy Government, with the Nazis.
It is spring 1941, Britain seems to be losing the war and Paris is occupied by the Nazis while Marshall Petin is running the Vichy Government that is collaborating with the Nazi invaders. Paris is under curfew and the blackout is in place so as not to help the British bombers on their way to bomb Germany. When night time arrives, the leader of a small resistance cell, Mattieu, begins his work with a few trusted colleagues.
Smuggling airman along escape lines to Spain so that they can get back to Britain, needs a team that can be relied upon not to talk out of turn. The Vichy agents are not really trying to stop them but they will if the opportunity arises and make their German allies happy. Too many are escaping and the German’s are not happy, and they send one of their own to plan to capture and shut down these escape routes.
Mattieu and his cell also work with the British SOE getting agents in to France so that they made things more difficult for the Germans. But when Mattieu is informed on and made the subject of a manhunt, he and his team know that they have to get away before they end up in the hands of the Germans and the Gestapo. It still does not stop their work, which they started, but the ineptness of the Nazi collaborators may just be the saving grace.
A Hero in France is an excellent espionage thriller, which shows the excellence of Furst’s research and writing and getting under the skin of the very few that did work against the occupation. There are no wasted words no padding, Furst is short and straight to the point which makes for an enthralling read, that grips the reader from the beginning sentence to the last.
Paul Diggett 5/5
A Hero in France by Alan Furst
W&N 9781474602921 pbk Apr 2017