Night Soldiers – Alan Furst

Borrowed from Phil’s bookshelf, Night Soldiers tells the story of young Bulgarian, Khristo, in the decade spanning the Second World War. Taking the decision to leave Bulgaria for better, albeit unknown, things in Communist Russia he trains as an NKVD (the KGB’s forerunner) agent and makes lifelong friends with his fellow trainees drawn from various parts of the Soviet system. From Moscow to the Spanish Civil War, followed by an escape to France and a period of unexpected happiness in Paris, the novel culminates in a final undercover mission that takes Khristo the length of the Danube and back into focus earlier periods and people in his life.

There are lots of twists and turns, which were sometime complicated to follow as at its heart the novel portrays the world of the Soviet secret service, complete with secret codes, Stalinist purges and double agents, spreading across the whole of Europe, east and west, as well as the USSR. Also, I can’t put my finger on it, but something about the writing meant that I was always conscious of the author’s American background, and that felt strange. link: Night Soldiers – Alan Furst