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.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Red Gold by Alan Furst (1999)

Red Gold by Alan Furst (1999) – By the fall of 1941 the Nazi occupation of France is well established. French citizens are adjusting to life as a conquered people. Most try to live quietly, some have become collaborators, a few have begun the Resistance.

Jean Casson is a former film producer from an upper class family without money. He had a chance to escape to England but, as the ship was leaving France, he returned to look for a young actress with whom he was in love. He could not find her and returned to Paris where he lives under an assumed name, Jean Marin, and has drifted down into desperate poverty where he has barely enough money to survive a few days and must sell his overcoat for a few more francs.

At the same time the Soviet Union has sent agents into Paris. Prior to the war they had supported the French Communist Party as it sought to gain power. Now, with Russia reeling from the German attack, they have been instructed to become partisans fighting Germans a continent away from Moscow.

A nondescript middle aged man, Weiss, is the local Soviet representative. While they have little with which to resist the Germans they undertake operations. The reprisals the Nazis exact upon the French population are of no concern to the committed Communists. The fate of the U.S.S.R. is in the balance and they will take action against the enemy.

Casson, who is on the run for having escaped from the Gestapo, is arrested by the French police. He gives up the pretence of his fake identity. The end has come for him. To his surprise he has been arrested so a member of the French intelligence services, Captain Degrave, from Vichy can speak with him. Casson had served under Degrave during the 1940 invasion in a film unit.

Degrave wants Casson to act as a liaison in contacting the French Communists about working together to resist the Nazis. Casson has been chosen because:

“It must be somebody neutral, apolitical, not a socialist, not a conservative. Somebody who has not fought in the political wars. You have certainly had contact with party members in the film industry – incidental, without problems. They will know who you are, they will know you haven’t worked against them.”

Thus a fragile alliance is launched that is equally being formed on an international scale. England has been the enemy of the U.S.S.R. since its creation but they have become allies to fight Nazi Germany.

Can Casson, a decent man, but far from a wily diplomat be the man to be the intermediary in this coalition of enemies?

The Communists are wary. The intelligence officers represented by Degrave have not only been their enemy in peacetime France they are openly working for the collaborators of the Vichy regime.

Casson is not of heroic demeanour, stature, background or eloquence but he is committed to France. He has been in her Army during two wars against Germany.

Casson, through Degrave, meets Helene another lonely soul trying to survive in France with the additional burden of being Jewish. They each long for a relationship.

Furst does not write highly paced thrill a page books. There is a gradual building of suspense that will have you wanting to know what happens to Casson. In my next post I will discuss the quintet of Furst books I have read. (Dec. 1/13)
*****
My previous reads of Furst are (2002) - Kingdom of Shadows; (2004) - The Polish Officer; (2010) - Spies in the Balkans; (2012) - Dark Voyage. I have only reviewed the last two books.

12 comments:

  1. Sounds very attractive to me and I'm looking forward to your next post, Bill.

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    1. Jose Ignacio: Red Gold is a satisfying book.

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  2. I've only read the one Furst book myself and it was great. This sits on the pile - maybe next year, I'll get to it. Sounds great.

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    1. col: I hope you reach Red Gold sooner than later. It is worth finding it on the pile.

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  3. I read one ages ago, and have been meaning to pick up the serie again. Look forward to your overview.

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    1. Moira: One of the advantages of Furst's books is that you do not have to read them sequentially and they age well.

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  4. Bill - This really does sound appealing. And there's something about the quiet buildup of tension that can really add to a story. I look forward to your next post.

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    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Furst can make tension relentless without scattering bodies across the pages.

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  5. Bill-thanks for reminding me to try more Alan Furst they are always satisfying reads with great atmosphere.

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    1. Norman: Thanks for the comment. "Atmosphere" is an excellent one word summary of Furst.

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  6. Bill, I am looking forward to reading this book by Furst. You are right, the books are slowly paced and I enjoyed that, at least in the ones I have read. (Only the first two.)

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    1. TracyK: Thanks for commenting. Furst has a pace that suits his plots.

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