Red Gold by Alan Furst, 1999, Harper Collins Publishers
Is the knock on the door at the end of the book Jean Marin’s lover or the long eluded final hand of the assassin?
This tale of the twisted life of Jean Marin takes us through the workings of the many faceted underground resistance during the WWII German occupation of France. It details the need for that most necessary union of odd bed-fellows to clandestinely fight a common cause, the Nazis.
It is clear from the start that Jean Claude Marin, a former film director, now in a no-man’s limbo of the disenfranchised, is not one of the “in” crowd who can consort freely with the Vichy government, the communists or the Free French movement under the exiled De Gaulle, now operating from England.
Jean Claude is a man of his own, apparently able to live in the cracks and crevices of Paris, hawking a coat or trinket to buy wine and bread for one more day, linking up with the underground freedom fighters to help with the street assassinations of German officers, smuggle weapons and do his part in waging an underground war against the Nazis.
Three stories intermingle within the book to make it engrossing for the detail oriented reader who craves the reality of life on the edge not fantasized nor romanticized in any way: A. The unrequited love story between Marin and the Jewess, Helene, who must leave France before she is turned over to the Germans by a blackmailer. B. The gun smuggling trip from the Cote D’Azur to Paris with the tension of the old truck, the ambush and the sense of the unknown ahead at the guarded gates of Paris. C. The ruse and nearly circumvented scheme to blow the canal locks and stop a hundred fuel barges from reaching Rommel’s desert war.
For those who have known the tears and terror of war or the day to day tensions of living on the edge in uncontrollable terrorist ridden countries with their loved ones, Alan Furst is the author to read. He may bring tears to your eyes, but they will be tears of healing and understanding your own sorrows.
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