In the autumn of 1941 as German tanks approach Moscow, Stalin issues a desperate order: all secret operatives behind enemy lines must strike no matter what the cost. Into the fray stumbles Jean Casson--once a wealthy Parisian film producer, now penniless and wanted by the Gestapo. But when the local police finally catch him, instead of handing him over to the brutal Germans, they direct him to an old military friend and a new job in the service of the newly resurrected French intelligence service.
Unlike some of Furst's more recent works (Kingdom of Shadows and Blood of Victory), this work has a fairly linear plot line. Casson is recruited by anti-German Vichy intelligence officers to make contact with the Communist resistance. Dangerous work indeed.
The plot is stronger, but the 'atmosphere' is not as palpable. Still, Alan Furst is a more than worthy successor to Eric Ambler and Graham Greene.
Highly recommended for fans of the spy genre or fine writing anywhere
He presents the situation, not idealized with brave, beautiful people who are incredible spies, but instead as people who barely manage to find ways to survive, and do what little they can to help the cause of defeating Hitler. Fear is always present and one never knows who is knocking on your door, or who will be knocking it down.
As with the other books I’ve read by Furst, this reads like a series of events in the life of the protagonist, starting with a pivotal moment, and ending at another, leaving the reader to imagine what comes next, even if the main character would continue to survive his next, unwritten adventure. What makes this book, as well as his others, so good, is how well he evokes time and place and puts the reader into the head of the characters, bringing to life their goals, fears, hopes, and quiet desperation.
Alan Furst has the ability to bring immediate atmosphere to his stories. In Red Gold, we are sneaking around Paris, clandestinely meeting with Resistance members, ex-military people, communists and Jews, all working separately but all against the Germans. Jean-Claude’s mission is to approach the communists, to get them to work with De Gaulle’s Resistance.
This was a great sequel to [The World At Night]. Many praises for his ability to bring Paris, 1941 to life, from working class people, girls of the night, fugitives, collaborators, Jews and Communists, loyalties that shift in the wind, horrific and violent reprisals, acts of heroism that will never be recognized all bended together to give us a very good look at what the war was like for both this city and country. My only quibble with this book would be his abrupt ending, it certainly left me wanting more. A great read.
While Casson remains an engaging character, the point of view shifts just a bit too often for the reader to be completely invested in his fortunes.
As always in Furst, the atmosphere is paramount, and top-notch, and the attention to detail both convincing and compelling; far and away the most interesting aspects of the book for me, however, were the historical minutae: there were no less than fifteen different resistance groups more or less actively working against the Nazis in France by 1941 (a fact which brought to mind DeGaulle's comment about the number of France's cheeses), but the main ones -- DeGaulle's London-based group (which had the BBC as the world's most effective mouthpiece) and the French Communists -- didn't utilize their resources as much as they could have, because they were both expecting the Nazis to be chased out of Paris in a couple of years once the Americans landed, and, once the U.S. declared war on Germany, they both became primarily interested in who would seize power after the Nazis left. Now there's some realpolitik at which even Henry Kissinger might blush.
Furst's novels, in short, can say things that most history books can't (or won't), and should be highly esteemed if only for that reason.
Furst again works in references to films, usually those allegedly produced by Casson prior to the outbreak of hostilities in Europe.
synopsis | Perhaps six months after Jean Casson jumps from a ship taking him to Britain, he's eking out a living under a false name and facing discovery by the Gestapo or death from starvation. His desperation leads eventually to contact with his old commanding officer, now part of the Vichy resistance, competing with de Gaulle's London-based resistance and itself desperate. Casson agrees to serve as liaison between the DR (the pre-Vichy intelligence service) and a loose network of French and non-French communist cells. It's soon clear the stories of Red Gold are no longer true, if they ever were, and efforts to mount effective operations against the Nazis grow increasingly daring and short on odds.