9780783894270 / 0783894279

Kingdom of Shadows


Publisher:G. K. Hall & Company



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About the book:

It must be daunting for an author to be compared to Graham Greene, John Le Carré and Robert Harris, but Alan Furst's much acclaimed sequence of novels set during the 1930s and World War Two unquestionably demonstrate the virtues of his predecessors: brilliantly detailed backgrounds in which the periods involved are faultlessly conjured up; highly impressive plotting and (his ace in the hole) characterisation that has all the richness and complexity of the very best writers. With Kingdom of Shadows, Furst moves his writing on to yet another level: the sense of danger and foreboding that informs this tale of intrigue and betrayal brings the reader the all-too-rare rush of excitement that only the finest novels in this field can convey.

It's 1938, and a sinister tide of Fascism is growing in strength throughout Europe. Ex-cavalry officer Nicholas Morath (originally from Hungary) returns to his young mistress in Paris's Seventh Arrondissement. He has been helping his uncle Count Janos Polanyi, a diplomat, in his attempt to stop Hungary drifting into an allegiance with Nazi Germany. But this is a very dangerous game for Morath and his uncle, involving double dealing between defectors, SS renegades and British politicians. And as Hitler marches into Prague, Morath's foolhardy country-hopping endeavours grow ever more dangerous.

On the level of a highly intelligent espionage tale, Furst demonstrates a masterly command of the idiom, with Polanyi's dangerous odysseys between the Czech fortresses of the Sudeten mountains and the villas of Budapest handled in an utterly authoritative fashion. The driving force behind his narrative is always the struggles within the souls of his characters, and the way the human spirit can survive under the most appalling conditions. Morath, in particular, is drawn with all the complexity and insight that has become Furst's trademark, and we follow his journeys with ever-mounting concern. Furst's way with a passage of tension remains nonpareil, as with this dangerous traversing of a ruined bridge:
Flat on his belly, Morath worked his way across the bridge. He could hear the water as it rushed passed, ten feet below, could feel it--the damp chill air that rose from heavy current. He did not look back, Pavlo would either find the nerve to do this or he wouldn't. Crawling over the weathered planks, he realised that a lot more of it had burned than was evident from the shoreline. Long before he reached the end, he stopped. The bridge trembled and swayed each time he moved.
--Barry Forshaw

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