"A Hero of France" by Alan Furst

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A Hero of France will rank as one of the public’s favorite books by Alan Furst, I’m sure of it. It features Paris, everyone’s favorite destination, and a World War II French resistance cell operator, a protagonist of ready appeal for a large number of readers. And as usual, Mr. Furst does an excellent job of rendering the epoch in his details.

Hero recounts a time early in the War, shortly after Germany began its occupation of the northern portion of France, including Paris. The Gestapo and the SS are not yet in charge of the civilian population - this was still the responsibility of the German military police. This arrangement deteriorated when
Hitler decided the French would never join the Axis, which coincided with Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Russia.

In this narrow time frame, marginally gentler (if you will permit me) than the regime that followed, Mathieu, the nom de guerre of the Resistance team leader, risks his own life and those of his followers, to rescue and evacuate RAF pilots downed over France. A clever police inspector from Hamburg, recruited into the German occupiers’ security apparatus, becomes his nemesis for a time, and forces him into flight.

This is an atmospheric book; it captures the cracks and deep shadows of wartime Paris very well. It illuminates a hard time for Paris and France, that was about to become a lot harder. I didn’t quite get the depth and intrigue I found in The Night Soldiers, but this is a fun read anyway.

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