Furst’s best-selling spy novels excel at pulling his readers back in time, often to World War II and the years leading up to it... Furst’s clever machinations gain real momentum in the second half of the novel, where Ricard and his new companion, Leila, become embroiled in a plot involving Polish laborers, torpedoes and possibly deadlier weapons. Even if the depictions of women as sexpots and ingénues are as stuck in time as the rest of the story, there’s comfort in knowing that better days are ahead for the people of Paris.
Furst’s prose is almost understated but he conjures up a universe. Wartime Paris is lovingly depicted: the smell of wet leaves, the taste of chicory coffee, the flics in their rain capes, a loaded glance across a café. Most of all, the sense of menace.
Unlike Renko and Wiley, Paul Ricard is not a professional investigator. Like many of Furst’s protagonists, he is an everyman figure thrust into peril, a novelist who witnesses the death of a resistance fighter. As Ricard crouches over the dying man, he thrusts a folded sheet of paper into Ricard’s pocket: a blueprint of some kind. Ricard’s first thought is to get rid of it. The inked lines spell clear danger.