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Spies Of The Balkans
 
by
Alan Furst
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Spies Of The Balkans (Night Soldiers #11)

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  2,950 ratings  ·  434 reviews

Greece, 1940. Not sunny vacation Greece: northern Greece, Macedonian Greece, Balkan Greece—the city of Salonika. In that ancient port, with its wharves and warehouses, dark lanes and Turkish mansions, brothels and tavernas, a tense political drama is being played out. On the northern border, the Greek army has blocked Mussolini’s invasion, pushing his divisions back to Alb...more
Paperback, 279 pages
Published by Orion (first published January 1st 2010)
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sckenda
Mar 28, 2014 sckenda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of Sophisticated Historical Espionage
Recommended to sckenda by: Lucky Find at a Bargain Bin
Greece: 1940-41. Spies and refugees skulk the rainy streets of Salonika, a world port and city of waterfront dives. Salonika is the ancient city of Thessalonica (to the churches of which St. Paul addressed two epistles), but it is also the largest red light district and the home to the largest community of Sephardic Jews in Eastern Europe. Salonika is also the home of spies—spies who always want something.

“Seagulls circled above the port, their cries doing nothing to disperse the melancholy.” ...more
Michael
Furst set a very high standard for himself early in his career. He clearly owns the period from 1933-45 in Europe and is a very fine writer of historical fiction filled with intrigue and likeable characters. Over the last few years, however, he has slipped into a formulaic pattern that takes few risks and delivers few surprises. I'm not concerned with those formulaic elements that function as trademarks (protagonists who never die, Table 14 in the Brasserie Heininger in Paris with its mirror mar...more
Will Byrnes
Shshshshsh. Don’t tell anyone. It is 1939. In the strategic Greek port city of Salonika, rumblings of war can be heard as Nazi Germany gains allies by threat and force. People wonder only when the invasion will come. Costa Zinnis is the head of a special political branch of the police, charged with discretely managing the problems of the connected and keeping his finger on the pulse of the town. And there is plenty going on. Spies abound. A mysterious German accepts an envelope in a dark alley....more
Nigel
Reading Alan Furst's Night Soldiers series is a bit like reading Patrick O'Brian. Furst's first (heh) was Night Soldiers, a massive epic of war and espionage, probably the best novel about spies in the Second World War you're likely to read. But in many ways it set the parameters for his subsequent works, while Red Gold set the template. None of the other books have been as epic - except inasmuch as anything touched by the Second World War is touched by the epic - tighter, briefer, sharper, more...more
Ian Mapp
Oh dear. Chosen because it was on the TV Book Club and had some good reviews in the year. This is truely terrible.

How can anyone make WW2 boring?

Costas Zannis is a policeman in Salonika, Greece in 1941. There is a map at the start of the book. Thats always a good place to start. The work of fiction neatly explains the Balkans part in WW2 and the history of the countries in the area - Yugoslavia, Turkey and so on. This is vaguely interesting.

What fails is the story. Remember this is a work of fic...more
Gerry
A reasonable start quickly degenerates into drivel with the storyline jumping around with seemingly no real focus. The main character Costa Zannis would be better working in Costa Coffee for all the interest he generates in his role as a handler of Salonika's political cases.

I am afraid it was so bad that, try as I might, I had no option to abandon it almost halfway through; how I got that far I am not sure but even that has taken me a couple of months because I couldn't always face trying to ma...more
Mike
Furst has a talent for capturing the lesser known regions touched by World War II. Spies of the Balkans is no exception. We meet Zannis, a Greek detective who is assigned the most delicate tasks by the Commissioner of Police, a shadowy figure named Vangelis. Greece is at war with Italy and winning. It is only a matter of time before Hitler will not allow the Axis powers to be weak in any manner by going to the aid of Mussolini's troops. Meanwhile, Zannis will become involved in assisting the esc...more
Steve
This was my second foray into Furst's historical detective/action/thriller not-really series, and I enjoyed it (although not as much as the first). Here, most of the action takes place in WWII Greece (but that's not fair to the scope of the storyline, which is far broader). The history is light, the sense of time and place is rich (and that I enjoy), but - for whatever reason - I felt that (unlike is the first book of his I read) I was less intrigued with the protagonist (who seemed like "just a...more
Bill
I loved this book and couldn't put it down. I bought it by chance, saw the cover, it looked interesting, read the synopsis; it sounded like a story I might like. I was right; it was great! A historical spy novel set in Greece 1940 as Greece and the Balkans prepare for the Nazi invasion. The main character is Costa Zannis, a police official who by accident almost becomes involved in working an escape route from Berlin to Salonika. He is heroic in a normal way, his friends as well. The story is so...more
Merilee
A fun thriller about the early days of WWII in Salonika. We listened to it in the car. Aside from some cheesy love/sex scenes I'd highly recommend it.
Tim Pendry

This is a solid wartime Balkans thriller with an appealing central character that wears its debt to Ambler with pride.

Furst is an American yet there is something British about his sensibility and style although it almost lost a star for an absurd romantic element that stretched patience a little.

One of the reasons for reading this thriller, other than that it is almost a compulsive page-turner, is educational - he tells the story of one year (1940/1941) of critical Balkans history well (with m...more
warren Cassell


This was not the finest Furst espionage thriller I have read. However, the good stuff first…pun unintended.

All of his novels take place in Europe during the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, leading up to the beginning of the Second World War. I lived through this historical era which not only intrigues me, but its European setting is of particular interest. Furst’s newest takes place in a lesser known geography where the ethnic tensions, eons old territorial disputes and nationalistic rivalries are always in...more
Marc
Spies of the Balkans takes place primarily in Salonika over the six months preceding the April 1941 Nazi invasion of Greece. The protagonist is prototypically Furstian: a highly competent, stoic loner with a strong moral compass. He is Zannis, a police detective who gets involved in an underground network smuggling Jews out of Germany, participates in battles against Italy at the mountainous Albanian border, and gets recruited by British spies to attempt a daring evacuation of an important Briti...more
Caroline
Greece in the early 1940s kept her wary eye on Hitler's advances through parts of Europe. Mussolini, attempting to replicate Hitler's success, decides to invade Greece, but is repelled by the Greek army. But Salonika waits for the inevitable invasion by Hitler's army and secret service.

In these uncertain times, spies with different international concerns blend into Salonika society, some catching the eye of Costa Zannis, a police inspector known for his integrity, and one with a special team, wo...more
Helen
Another terrific spy novel by Alan Furst.

What I love about Furst, in addition to the supple beauty of his words, is the way his extensive grasp of knowledge covers every facet of World War II; how events affect the lives of the man on the street, farmers, resistance fighters, soldiers, generals, spies, politicians, both the Axis and Allied views. No other writer of this genre can touch him when it comes to atmosphere. He knows the color of the street lights when they are blacked out; when a pap...more
Linda
I've read all of Alan Furst's WWII spy novels and have been entranced by almost all of them.
This one is, therefore, a big disappointment. Furst's best books have vivid setting descriptions that create not only the place and times but also the atmosphere and tension of the events. Balkans has so little of this that it could be taking place on an empty sound stage. The best books have a complex characters, people who have been pulled into resistance action by the WWII events that enter their every...more
Jinnie Lee
# 8 - Meh. There are some things I really enjoyed about this book. Of course, it met my ongoing interest in WWII, and taught me a bit about a location of the war I was not at all familiar with (Greece, Turkey, Hungary, etc. in the Balkans). The writing was pretty good, the scenes were well described, and the plot developments were plausible (which I like even in a fiction book). During the first part of the book, I was pretty excited about the things that were set up, and was eager for the autho...more
Chris Swann
Furst is in top form with his latest novel. Yes, he continues to follow his formula. Yes, the Brasserie Heininger and its infamous table 14 show up again. And I have to admit that the romance in this novel comes across--at least, at first--as contrived rather than genuine.

What makes these books work is Furst's depictions of people, mostly ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances, set in a bygone era full of detail and atmosphere. One would think that Furst, who has carved out a narrow niche--...more
Ed
Jan 04, 2012 Ed rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Spy and thriller fans
Another winner from Allan Furst - in my opinion, the most accomplished writer doing spy and espionage novels today.

The story takes place mostly in Salonika, Greece in early 1940. Hitler is grabbing up real estate as fast as he can and Mussolini is trying to emulate his ally by invading Albania. Greece comes to Albania's aid and inflicts a number of defeats on Il Duce's armies. Everyone believes that Hitler will either dominate or invade the countries of the Balkans. The protagonist, Costa Zanni...more
Robin
This was not the first Furst I read. Like so many authors I have come to know, I stumbled over his works when looking for something by someone with a name very close on the library shelves.

Furst is adept at drawing out characters who to most people, would not rate a second look. In this case a humble police lieutenant with a chaotic love life living in the back streets of Salonika.

It is true to life in that many 'spies' are very ordinary people often chosen because they are expendable or becaus...more
Alan
A decent entry in Furst's series. The book gets by more on character than on a solid plot. The lead character, Costa Zannis is a special detective in pre-Second World War Salonika (now called Thessalonika). He is drawn into the clandestine world initially by helping German Jews escape to Turkey. British Intelligence gets wind of his success and pushes him into advancing their aims in the Balkans. Honorable, practical and patriotic, Zannis is drawn into increasingly difficult and dangerous plans....more
Richard Wise
How does he do it? That sense of dark foreboding. Well lots of foreshadowing in the latest from Alan Furst. So many of his characters are fairly ordinary guys shoved into an extraordinary world. A gripping portrait of pre-WWII Europe.

This one Costa Zannis, a Greek cop in Salonika who gets involved with a very beautiful, aristocratic German Jewess who is smuggling her friends out of Berlin decides he wants to help. Would he have been so anxious had she looked like the backside of a horse? Probab...more
Matt
Like all his novels, this book just drips atmosphere. The plot meanders rather than twists and the characters are often morally ambiguous. But for me, this is a brilliant way of representing pre-war Europe. An era typified by bad compromise and slow but inevitable decline.

As Furst is one of the best writers in the espionage genre, I can forgive him for the occassional cliche. I find I even look forward to seeing how he can possibly put Brasserie Heininger into each novel. When a writer is this...more
Robert Farwell
(***1/2) I loved enjoyed 'Spies of the Balkans' (Night Soldiers #11). It wasn't Furst's best in the series, but it was a sweet Kataïfi of a novel. Emotionally it fed me. Furst highlights the little things people do with just a nudge here and a twist there to make a dark world just a bit better. 'Spies of the Balkans' focuses on the sacrifices people made during fascism's push into Southern Europe. The novel's center of gravity is Costa Zannis, a senior police official in Salonika, who sometimes...more
Patrick
"Balkans" is a nice, tight, understated spy story. It's a black and white novel, with Bogart, Bacall, Greenstreet, Lorre and that fat guy who played the bartender goon in "Key Largo."

Nothing is wasted in this book. There's nothing remarkable about the story — except that it just moves along, and made me want to find out what was next.

Best of all, there's no existential blah blah blah (apart from the setting, which is Greece in the early 1940s — not a carefree place). John LeCarre is a brilliant...more
Rich
I pride myself on being able to pick up almost any book, in any genre and enjoy it to some extent. Unfortunately, Spies of the Balkans forced me to do something I rarely do, quit on a book before I've finished.

I don't want to say the book was terrible as I'm not qualified to critique this point. All I can say is that it wasn't enjoyable to me. The characters are boring and incomplete. The plot seems to bounce around and goes seemingly nowhere. I have too many books to read that I know I will li...more
Rishiyur Nikhil
Repeating my review of Furst's "The Polish Officer", which I read in 2005: like other Alan Furst books, great potboiler, great atmospherics, WWII spy story, no single plot but a series of smaller episodes in the life of a spy. Like other Furst books, there's no clear beginning or end of the story, each book looks like it's been clipped out of a much longer-running movie, and clipped to meet a page limit requirement, not because it's a natural starting or ending point. All his books are excellent...more
Keith
A solid historical spy-thriller, to be read more for its atmospheric depiction of the period than for its plot. John le Carre is the superior prose stylist by far and Graham Greene the sharper moralist, but Furst probably deserves to be part of the conversation... He tells the story *he* wants to tell--a quieter story, one that takes place on the "periphery" of the larger conflict--and he tells it elegantly, economically. To paraphrase the blurb I saw on another of his book jackets, he writes ab...more
David
This tale of the onset of WWII is set in the Northern Greek city of Salonika. The central character is a special detective in the Salonika police department and this book largely describes the preparations that he takes for the anticipated invasion by the Italians/Germans. While there are a few interesting events described in the story it seems that most of the discussion is simply referring to events that will happen in the future. This was a disappointing read as I was surprised when it sudden...more
Austin
When I want to take a break from the heavyweights of literature Alan Furst is a sure bet to assuage my muddled mind and smooth out the wrinkles of my psyche. He's accepted as the master of WWII espionage novels, and for good reason. His meticulous research into real people making very real and very dangerous sacrifices to fight the Axis in Europe is second to none. His novels are engrossing and finely textured, each one taking place in different countries with different members of the resistance...more
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Goodreads Librari...: ISBN 9780753827260 - Page Number Request 2 18 Jun 28, 2013 01:20AM  
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Alan Furst is widely recognized as the current master of the historical spy novel. Born in New York, he has lived for long periods in France, especially Paris. He now lives on Long Island.

Night Soldiers novels
* Night Soldiers (1988)
* Dark Star (1991)
* The Polish Officer (1995)
* The World at Night (1996)
* Red Gold (1999)
* Kingdom of Shadows (2000)
* Blood of Victory (2003)
* Dark Voyage (2004)
* The F...more
More about Alan Furst...
Night Soldiers (Night Soldiers, #1) Mission to Paris (Night Soldiers, #12) The Spies of Warsaw (Night Soldiers, #10) The World at Night (Night Soldiers, #4) The Polish Officer (Night Soldiers, #3)

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“And, with much of Europe occupied by Nazi Germany, and Mussolini's armies in Albania, on the Greek frontier, one wasn't sure what came next. So, don't trust the telephone. Or the newspapers. Or the radio. Or tomorrow.” 2 likes
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