Title: Night Soldiers
Author: Alan Furst
Furst, Alan (1988). Night Soldiers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Date Posted: January 7, 2017
The author of Shadow Trade (1982) and The Caribbean Account (1981) follows the career of a Bulgarian agent from his recruitment by the Russians in the early 30s to the aftermath of WW II. This intelligent and absorbing story opens in 1934 in Vidim, Bulgaria, a tiny backward town on the Danube where the fascist movement has beguiled the local bourgeoisie, who have decked themselves out in Balkanized Nazi-style uniforms run up by the local tailor, a Jew, and taken to marching menacingly about town. When young Nikko Stoianev can’t help laughing at their strutting, the fascists stomp him to death, instantly creating a lifelong enemy in Nikko’s brother Khristo. Khristo is ripe for recruitment by Antipin, a Russian agent in Vidim to subvert the fascists. Antipin sends Khristo to Russia for training by the NKVD and employment as a covert operative. Top in his class, Khristo forms a secret alliance with several fellow students–an alliance that surfaces again and again in the years that follow as Stoianev sees bloody action in the Spanish Civil War and then, fleeing the Stalinist purges, holes up in Paris. Stoianev spends the war with the French resistance; but even in his remote hideaway, he feels the reach of both the NKVD, who want him back and will never rest until they have him, and the secret alliance of his classmates. An unusual viewpoint, solid research, and unobtrusively elegant writing make this pure pleasure to read.