We know what we’re going to get when we read Alan Furst: moody, well-written thrillers set somewhere in Europe during the years leading up to World War II. As I’ve commented here before, these books are almost interchangeable. Take a principled hero, subject him to pressures from the growing power of the Nazi regime, and watch him squirm. Add quirky female characters to provide sexual spice and go on for 200 pages.
Hey, I’m not complaining. Mission to Paris is a perfectly pleasant read. The hero is Fredric Stahl, an American movie star of Viennese birth. He has been sent to Paris by Warner Brothers in 1938 to make a film called “Après la Guerre,” in which he plays a French Foreign Legionnaire. He comes under pressure from certain mysterious Germans to help the Nazi cause. I think you can imagine the rest. I’ll merely add that he’s in Berlin for one night which just happens to be Kristallnacht.
The real star of the novel is Paris, from the posh hotels near the Champs-Elysées to the recessive grandeur of the Faubourg St.Germain and the down-market charms of Montmartre. Furst writes about this city with such knowledge and sensory pleasure that he transports you. The plot of Mission to Paris is a little bit flabby — though it does contain a gun battle it lacks a definitive climax — but as a brief, inexpensive mental vacation the novel is very good value.