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Spies of the Balkans

(Night Soldiers #11)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  5,407 ratings  ·  638 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 Al
Hardcover, 268 pages
Published June 15th 2010 by Random House
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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Will Byrnes
Jun 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-2, thriller
Review to come soon!What a deeply satisfying read! I am giving this one a rating of 4.5!

This was my first book by Alan Furst and I will be on the lookout for more of his books.
The story takes us back in time to the 1940s to the ancient Greek port city of Salonika. This is the time of the WW2, and intrigue and danger lurks everywhere.

We are introduced to our protagonist, Costa Zannis, a Greek police detective turned fixer who takes care of the delicate cases. He is also a reservist who would go
Jun 19, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
No, these are not the Eric Ambler Balkans, though both series of books are set around the same time, and both involve spying. Spies of the Balkans is another of Alan Furst's looks at the inevitable start of World War Two.

In this book, the hero is Constantine Zannis, a highly placed police officer in the Greek city of Salonika. He sees the storm clouds of war gather and make their way south to the Northern border of Greece. Early in the book, he finds one way of depriving the Nazis of their prey:
Jun 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
“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.”
― Alan Furst, Spies of the Balkans


(***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 t
Aug 19, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 but 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 t
Nov 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: series
" wasn't sure what came next. So, don't trust the telephone. Or the newspapers. Or the radio. Or tomorrow.”
― Alan Furst, Spies of the Balkans

The opening scenes are straight out of film noir: dark and rainy night, mysterious stranger, rendezvous in a lonely alley.
Costa Zannis is a beleaguered police officer who keeps noticing strangers ending up in Salonika as the war ramps up in Eastern Europe and threatening the Balkans and Greece. Some are simple refugees, others are clearly Jews trying
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
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another really enjoyable espionage tale by Alan Furst, this one set against the background of the Balkans in WWII. ...more
Ian Mapp
Jul 22, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021-fiction
For sustained tension, it is difficult to match Alan Furst. His novels are set in the years leading up to and including the duration of World War II. The tension derives from the nail-biting espionage that is the main ingredient of his stories. Everyone is watchful of everyone else; no one is above suspicion. Even in scenes where Furst’s protagonist is not evading murderous counter-spies hot on his or her trail, or where split-second timing of multiple risky events is crucial to success, readers ...more
Aug 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
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
May 05, 2020 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book. Alan Furst is an excellent historical thriller author but this one ended abruptly, leaving alot to be desired. Almost 4 stars but that ending -
Lyn Elliott
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war, thrillers, greece, balkans
I've come across Alan First through Goodreads friends, so thank you to those who recommended his thrillers.
In Spies of the Balkans, the Greek detective Zannis has been transferred from regular to special duties requiring political sensitivity and a talent for fixing things behind the scenes. As the threat of invasion from, first Italy, then Germany, looms over all the Balkan states, Zannis uses his skills and position to help German Jews travel to safety through territory where occupation is imm
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another find at the Newberry Library Book Fair, lucky me. I will put this on the shelf to read again when locked in by winter. It was a different kind of spy book and my first with a Greek on center stage, making it all the more interesting. At times I felt the details were sparse and somewhat slim, but that equates to a book I will enjoy reading again. I did feel as though Zannis was the Accidental Spy if ever there was one - no family or educational connections leading him to what he did for a ...more
Jim Crocker
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Probably every Alan Furst book is a Five-Star read. Spies of the Balkans certainly is. This is Espionage writing at its best. In a few words, this story is about people with the will and determination to act and resist evil as they are nearly consumed by it, and many others were of course. When much of this was going on I wasn't ever born. However, I do recall hiding with my mother under a blanket with a flashlight during black outs. We should never forget the horrible reality of this time in ou ...more
warren Cassell
Jul 16, 2010 rated it liked it

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
Aug 30, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
A simply terrific novel! This eleventh offering in Furst's 'Night Soldiers' series may well be one of the very best that I've read. This is the story of how the Second World War reached the Balkan countries in 1941. The primary protagonist, Costa Zannis, is a senior Greek police official in Salonika, Greece, just south of the border with Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Zannis knows that eventually Hitler's eyes will move south to the Balkans and he and his compatriots begin to prepare for that day.

A fa
Aug 07, 2013 rated it liked it
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
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
First Furst book I've read and definitely enjoyed it and will seek out more. Am not a spy novel loving reader but this followed one character throughout and I found him most human and like able. Expanded my knowledge about WWII in Greece. Easy fast read and from what I see, one of Alan Furst's lesser known ...more
Jun 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Steve R
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it
One of the weakest efforts in Furst's otherwise quite engaging series of those unfortunate enough to have their had lives thrown about by the political, military, social and economic chaos that was the Nazi maelstrom of the 1930s and 1940s. For the first time in the series, Furst's new main character is a Greek, a policeman from Salonika. The time period is the later months of 1940 and the first half of 1941, and the overwhelming issue is if - and when that question gets its inevitable answer, t ...more
Scott Head
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Yet another gritty and detailed story of intrigue and espionage by Furst. Each of his "night soldiers" books explores the underworld of resistance, clandestine networks, and subversive labors of a particular nation or region in Europe, all from the view of a well-crafted hero, usually a thirty or forty-something man drawn into the dark by circumstances and events out of his control. So it was with former detective, now "senior police official" Costa Zannis, head of special detective projects in ...more
Paul Manytravels
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, suspense
Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst combines suspense and intrigue to tell the story of Greece as it anticipated the probability of invasion by Hitler. It’s main character, Costa Zannis, is a ‘high ranking police official’ with a wonderful knack of rooting out evil, apprehending villains and achieving just about any task he is assigned.
In this capacity, he is a natural to participate in the underground activities that aim to undermine the Nazi invasion and conquest. At first, he helps refugees es
Sep 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This was an interesting spy novel set in Greece during World War II. Our main character is a police detective who deals with "delicate matters" for the government, and he becomes an important player in several other ways as the events of the war affect him as well. First, he becomes an important cog in an escape route for Jews to get to safe countries from Germany. (Trains would take them from Berlin through Yugoslavia and into Greece where they could take a ship to Turkey or Egypt. Unfortunatel ...more
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Even though it's full of detail and well-researched, this historical fiction is still fast-paced. It's even better if you have some knowledge of history, and it's interesting to focus on such a region during the time the book takes place.

Unfortunately, as is all too common, the portrayal of women is to be questioned. Demetria, "the goddess," is Costa's "prize," and he has to do absolutely zero to have her fall in love with him. Just by existing he gets the most beautiful woman he's ever seen! N
Scott Ransom
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A really enjoyable spy-ish novel set in the Balkans in the early days of WWII. Lots of interesting things going on and a very interesting protagonist. I liked the close-in and personal nature of the story -- no grandiose schemes of world domination. Seems much more real and substantive -- and frightening. This is my 2nd novel by Furst and I really like his style and writing. I will read 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

Other books in the series

Night Soldiers (1 - 10 of 15 books)
  • Night Soldiers (Night Soldiers, #1)
  • Dark Star (Night Soldiers, #2)
  • The Polish Officer (Night Soldiers, #3)
  • The World at Night (Night Soldiers, #4)
  • Red Gold (Night Soldiers, #5)
  • Kingdom of Shadows (Night Soldiers, #6)
  • Blood of Victory (Night Soldiers, #7)
  • Dark Voyage (Night Soldiers, #8)
  • The Foreign Correspondent (Night Soldiers, #9)
  • The Spies of Warsaw (Night Soldiers, #10)

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