The story is set in 1938…the “blurb” on the back of my copy mistakenly reads “1939” and “War has been declared” hasn’t the blurb writer read the book?
This is my first Furst and possibly not my last.
On the cover James Patterson states “If you are a John Le Carré fan this is definitely the novel for you.” Having read “The Tailor of Panama” by John Le Carre, I’m not a Le Carré fan but I enjoyed this. An entertaining read set in a Europe where the Nazi shadow is lengthening.
The protagonist Fredric Stahl, a Hollywood movie star a Viennese emigré on location in Paris to make a film, ironically titled “Après La Guerre” about Foreign Legionnaires making their way home after World War 1, and gives us a story within a story. Stahl soon becomes a target for the Nazi propaganda machine, which requests he judge a festival of mountaineering films held in Berlin. The Germans are trying to undermine French resolve to fight in the approaching war, through political warfare. Daladier and Chamberlain have famously signed the Munich agreement which gave the Sudetenland (Czechoslovakia) to Germany in return for Hitler’s promise not to expand further.
Stahl is not your typical naïve American and as a famous movie star he has more mobility than most and could be a useful courier and information gatherer for the White House. His film star status doesn’t make him immune from danger and Herbert a ruthless Nazi thug is soon on his trail.
The book evokes the visceral Paris of the time, where much of the action is set:
“Parisian air: it smelled of a thousand years of rain dripping on stone, smelled of rough black tobacco and garlic and drains, of perfume, of potatoes frying in fat.”
The smashing of Jewish synagogues and mass arrests known as Kristallnacht takes place during his trip to Berlin, but we only experience it in the smell of smoke and broken glass the next day.
There are lots of interesting characters including two major female love/lust interests, socialite Kiki and the less glamorous but strangely more appealing, Renate, a costume designer and German émigré.
My rating 4 out of 5