Friday, March 11, 2005

A Coffin for Dimitrios: A review.

I picked up Eric Ambler's A Coffin for Dimitrios on the recommendation of the reader's notes at the end of Alan Furst's Blood of Victory, and now that I've read it I can see the debt that Furst owes Ambler. (As this reflects, Furst would no doubt agree.) Ambler writes a spy thriller (more or less) with a premium on plotting and place, and relatively little violence, with characters drawn from the underbelly of pre-WWII European politics. The action moves from Istanbul to Sofia to Geneva to Paris, against a backdrop of events that have been forgotten now -- a coup in Bulgaria -- but which were still relevant with the book came out in 1939. Paradoxically, for his distance from those days, Furst's work better captures the mood and sense of those locales, and particularly the sense of historical moment. Perhaps this is because when Furst writes, he knows how it will all come out in the end, and so he works harder to capture what was fleeting.

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