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Under Occupation


Under Occupation

Occupied Paris in 1942 is a dark, treacherous city now ruled by the German security services, where French resistance networks are working secretly to defeat them.

Alan Furst’s latest novel, part of a loosely defined series about World War II, opens with a man handing French novelist Paul Ricard a document just after being fatally shot by the Gestapo. The drawing inside looks like a sketch for a military weapon that Ricard realizes he must hand to someone in the resistance. As he is reluctantly drawn deeper into the resistance network, increasingly dangerous assignments lead him to travel throughout France and around Europe. By the end of this slim volume, he has stolen equipment, killed traitors, opened safe houses, and made himself a “poisonous plant,” as his lover, Leila, to whom he reports, puts it.

"Ricard is an attractive protagonist whose powers of observation are on display at every turn.... UNDER OCCUPATION is a fast-paced, enjoyable read..."

The other woman in Ricard’s life is Kasia, a young Pole who gets them into --- and out of --- several tough situations. Though Kasia is much younger, she helps Ricard on one of his most dangerous assignments, so when her life is threatened, he risks his own life and his scruples to extricate her.

Ricard is an attractive protagonist whose powers of observation are on display at every turn. Throughout the book, as he writes his own spy novel, we see him imagining the plot and populating the pages with distinctive characters. For Ricard --- and the reader ---  it’s a respite from the tense scenes of his current life, filled with strangers who may or may not betray him at any turn. So toward the end of the story, when Ricard makes plans to disappear, it’s no surprise that in his valise next to his gun would be the typewritten pages from his manuscript.

UNDER OCCUPATION is a fast-paced, enjoyable read, which makes the ending seem all the more abrupt. Perhaps Furst decided that he could continue where he left off in his next novel, but a few extra pages of denouement might have brought the book and its characters to a more gracious end.

Reviewed by Lorraine W. Shanley on November 27, 2019

Under Occupation
by Alan Furst