Finished April 26
Red Gold by Alan Furst
Another wonderful World War II thriller by a master. This novel takes place over just a few months, from the fall of 1941 to April 1942. The majority of the action takes place in Paris, but not all. The lead character here is Jean Casson, a film producer. In the summer of 1941, Jean had been questioned by the Gestapo and had escaped custody. He is now living under the name Jean Marin, and is running out of money. He connects with a previous colleague from the film industry and does some black market work that gives him a little to go in, but is subsequently picked up. Instead of being questioned though, he is given an opportunity. He is asked to be an intermediary between the resistance and the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans (FTP), the clandestine action group of the French Communist Party. His contact on the resistance side is a man named Degrave, someone Casson worked with years earlier on a propaganda piece. Degrave worked in government intelligence then, and still does. The first measure of cooperation is to supply the FTP with guns, something they badly need. As the plot progresses there are triumphs and setbacks. Casson is forced to approach both previous colleagues as well as old friends in order to keep himself funded, and make a dent in the German war machine.
Casson is an interesting man, one who let himself be turned by love, and yet even in the disappointment of that affair, move forward with open eyes. He cares about people, from Degrave to the woman and undocumented Jew, Helene, he meets that works in a travel agency and fears discovery and its repercussions, to his estranged wife Marie-Claire.
We see portions of the story from the view of some of the players on the communist side as well, again both triumphs and failures.
Furst is so good because he does his research and bases his plot on the reality of history.