The Polish Officer by Alan Furst
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Although Alan Furst's "The Polish Officer" (1995) came highly recommended by a friend of mine whose judgment I value and trust, I feel a little disappointed having read the book. It is a rather standard spy novel slash war story fare; Daniel Silva's books, which I do not like at all, are quite similar, with the exception that Mr. Furst is obviously a better writer. The novel is written with great sympathy for Polish people and Polish resistance fighters in particular, but I am not allowed to be biased because of my country of birth.
September 1939 in Warsaw: Germans attack Poland from the west, thus beginning the Second World War. Soon the Soviets attack from the east. Captain Alexander de Milja joins the Polish underground resistance army and his first task is to transport Polish National Bullion Reserve gold to Romania and then to Paris. The plot follows de Milja's exploits in various European countries as he excels in spying, diversion, and sabotage craft fighting the Germans and Russians. Toward the end the book is less of a "historical spy novel" (the author's characterization of his work) and more about the horrors of war.
The novel has several lighter, funny passages, for instance, when Sturmbannfuhrer Grahnweis leaves the hotel by the Saint-Rustique side of the building: "For a time it wasn't clear that Grahnweis was ever going to be found, but, with persistence and painstaking attention to detail, he was" (based on crown on the second bicuspid molar).
Captain de Milja is a success with women and the sex scenes are discreet and well written. A few gems like "She was that indeterminate age where French women pause for many years - between virginal girlhood (about thirty-five) and wicked-old-ladyhood..." demonstrate the author's sharpness of observations. Yet, all in all, I find "The Polish Officer" a rather unremarkable novel.
Two and a half stars.
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