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Historical Spy Novel Review – The Polish Officer

The Polish Officer by Alan Furst

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


This 1995 story was Furst’s third venture into the WWII historical novel with elements of spy and adventure tales. Furst emphasizes that his stories are fictional. But a reader can tell he’s done his research, reading deeply in the period’s newspapers, memoirs, and other novelists such as Gregor von Rezzori and Victor Serge (whose phrase “midnight in the century” is allusively used herein).

Furst contrasts effectively the beauty of the natural world with terrible things people do to each other. He is also brilliant at conveying the feeling of being trapped, by nosy neighbors, by hostile acquaintances and by aggressive militaries and secret police. In a sense, for all the attention to period detail and feelings, I don’t think there is much point to caviling about actual historical facts. Despite some slow spots that may drive a reader to contemplate bailing out, it’s easy enough to read and filled with enough changes of scene and incident to be worth persevering to the end. Furst, like Ross Macdonald, is a master at quickly sketching out characters.



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