I read two novels of Alan Furst's back to back in just a few days for each, which made for a fun week of reading. I'd heard of Furst and how good his historical novels were of World War II-era scheming and smuggling and espionage and assassinations, so when I spotted two of his books somewhere second-hand, I grabbed them.
They were great, although reading two, I started to see some patterns, such as a protagonist who isn't a professional spy but an ordinary, if accomplished, man who gets drawn into schemes outside his experience and inclination; a pronounced good guys vs. bad guys tone (the Nazis and their collaborators may be charming on the surface but are always rotten at the core); and at least as much, if not more, sex as violence.
The sex was the biggest surprise. Each book also featured a romantic subplot and not of the bleak sort, featuring betrayal and death, often found in spy novels like John Le Carre's or adventure thrillers such as Ian Fleming's. Furst's romances are all-out love affairs, and he lingers over them.
He's a deft writer who, in each of these novels — "Mission to Paris" and "Midnight in Europe" — creates believable stories set in what feels like the actual world of the late 1930s as Europe descends toward war. World War II involved so many conflicts in so many places ("Midnight in Europe" focuses on the Spanish Civil War, for example) that Furst will never run out of plots. He has already written 14 novels in this series (some have overlapping characters, I think), starting with "Night Soldiers," published in 1988.
The books are quick, satisfying reads, and I expect to read the rest of the series. The only complaint I have is that, once I start one, I'm glued to it until I'm done, which is like complaining that the pie is so good you can't stop eating it — not really a complaint at all.