About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dark Voyage by Alan Furst

Dark Voyage by Alan Furst – It is the spring of 1941. With World War II well underway Furst takes us to another location on the edges of the great conflict. Captain Eric DeHaan commands the tramp freighter, Noordenham. In Tangier, Morocco, he is contacted by representatives of the intelligence department of the Dutch Government in exile. They are working with the British on missions against the Nazis.

DeHaan has spent his adult life at sea traveling the oceans of the world on modest freighters. Intelligent, unmarried by choice, he is generally content with his life but anxious to strike at the Nazis who have occupied his homeland and cut him off from his family.

With the approval of the ship’s owner he is asked to aid the Allies by undertaking a short trip along the North African coast. His cargo will be a group of British commandoes on a mission to acquire information on German electronic capabilities to find Allied ships. With over 1,500 Allied ships sunk since the start of war 1 ½ years earlier it is a desperate struggle at sea.

Over night the Noordenham is transformed into the Santa Rosa, a comparable Spanish ship, fortunately docked on the Mexican coast for repairs. With her new paint drying the Santa Rosa sails for Cape Bon. Ultimately, while costly in human life, the mission is successful.

With the success they are ordered to take the Santa Rosa on another even more dangerous voyage with the goal of further aiding the Allied efforts in the electronic sea war.

DeHaan does not hesitate to commit himself and his crew to the new mission. It was striking how little say merchant seamen of that era had in their lives. When the Captain undertakes a voyage they are required to go with him. On the Noordenham / Santa Rosa is a group of sailors exiled, like DeHaan, by the war from their homes. They include a Polish engineer, a Jewish medical student acting as the ship’s doctor, an Egyptian radio operator and a Greek Army deserter.

It was interesting to read how both the Allies and Axis nations used ships of neutral nations to further their war efforts.

They undergo remarkable adventures on their missions for England but they are not the cartoon stories of most Hollywood movies. As the ending approaches there is a buildup of tension and anticipation that drives a reader to reach the ending.

In his personal life the reflective DeHaan thinks about the intense but so brief relationships he has had ashore with women.

DeHaan and the crew are the ordinary people of war. Once again I felt as if I was reading one of John Le Carre’s spy novels. There is no glitz or glamour. There are people doing their best amidst gritty circumstances. As in a Le Carre book there is no certainty of a happy ending.

Furst weaves another superb tale of life in the shadows of the battles, intrigues and politics of Europe in World War II. (Mar. 12/12)


  1. Glad to meet another Alan Furst fan. He does I agree write in the tradition of Le Carre. I am reading Dark Star at the moment and enjoying it very much.

  2. Bill - This sounds like such an interesting look at one of the points of conflict in WWII. And such a strong premise for a taut thriller, too. Thanks for an excellent review.

  3. Excellent review. I really must try this author as both you and Sarah have reviewed his books very temptingly! This one sounds a good one for me as my Dad was in the Navy (Royal not Merchant, though) in WW2. Luckily for him he was not old enough to join up until the last year or two of the war.

  4. Sarah: Thanks for the comment. I find it striking that an author who writes about real people in real life dangerous situations with real results is unique.

  5. Jill: Thanks for the comment. Sasha would be at home in a Furst novel.

  6. Margot: Thanks for commenting. Furst keeps finding important issues before or during WW II about which I find I have thought little until reading his books.

  7. Maxine: Thanks for the comment. I hope you will read Furst. Should you start with Dark Voyage I will be interested in your thoughts on how this sea going story accords with possible memories of your father from the war.

  8. I have never read Alan Furst but he is definitely my kind of writer, given my interest in WW2 and Cold War stories. He reminds me a little of Craig Thomas whose hero, the elderly Kenneth Aubrey, works for SIS but without, as you as, "glitz or glamour."

  9. Sorry, Bill, that should read as, "as you say".

  10. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. No need to worry about the mistake in the word. I am not familiar with Craig Thomas. It is interesting to hear of comparable series.