four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
13-Nov-Dec-2004
By: 
Alan Furst
user_rating: 
0

A-DarkVoyageIt’s April 1941. Nazi Germany has overrun the Netherlands, home of Eric DeHaan, captain of the commercial Dutch tramp freighter, the Noordendam. DeHaan and his rusty ship are enlisted by the Allies to embark on secret missions through Nazi-controlled waters. Along the way, DeHaan takes on an unlikely array of crew members and passengers, including a Jewish medical student, a spy, a female Russian journalist, and a Greek soldier. Even the smaller tasks in a great war are filled with suspense, intrigue, and a bit of romance. In a world besieged by the perils of global warfare, there is no safe port.
Random House. 256 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1400060184

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Mr. Furst has both a novelist’s imagination and a historian’s antennae for the nuances of unsteady World War II allegiances. … Eventually these people’s shared journey takes on a stature larger than any of the book’s individual characters ..." Janet Maslin

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"... stands out in a time in which second-rank genre books set in the same period, such as those by Greg Iles and Ken Follett, have tended to draw large audiences. The difference—and it’s a difference like that, say, between creamery butter and discount margarine—is that no one else has really dared to try to create a thriller that incorporates meticulous research blended with a deep sense of characters, set in a variety of landscapes … and written in a prose style both gracious and unobtrusive." Alan Cheuse

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Dark Voyage … has all the elements of his best books: a worldly but ultimately incorruptible main character; an electric atmosphere of threat; and a sensuous love affair. … [Furst is] a virtuoso craftsman who makes you want to be there in his books, whether it’s occupied Paris or the steel-cold reaches of the North Sea." Mary Ann Gwinn

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Dark Voyage has the ingredients of several genres—the mystery, the historical novel, the espionage thriller, the romance—but it rises above them all. … He’s a serious writer, and his novels remind us that these days a great deal of exceptionally good American writing is being done in what the literati dismiss as ‘popular’ fiction." Jonathan Yardley

Chicago Sun-Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Reading any Alan Furst novel is a casually heroic and cinematic trip into a gritty, though romanticized, World War II era dripping with intrigue. … What separates the over-the-top work of such popular storytellers as Tom Clancy and the quieter masters such as Furst, John le Carré and Robert Littell, is that Furst in particular is a master of understatement, in both language and action." Randy Michael Signor

Critical Summary

Dark Voyage is the eighth book by acclaimed novelist Furst, whose writing plumbs the territory of war-torn Europe prior to America’s involvement in WWII. Many critics agree that Dark Voyage is Furst’s best to date. Atmospheric, nuanced, and rich with complex characters, this book transcends the well-worn formulas of genre novels. Captain DeHaan is an interesting mix of intellectual and adventurous, witty and "decent"—a man worth rooting for—and the rest of the unique cast also enlivens the novel. With a few exceptions, most critics praise Furst’s writing style as sophisticated, yet never off-putting. Most aficionados of historical wartime thrillers will love this book—and it’s likely other readers will, too.

Previously

Blood of Victory | Alan Furst (2002): 3.5 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2003. A Russian writer and war hero living in 1940s Paris is recruited by a beautiful French woman into a gang of amateur spies.