Speaking of spy fiction – spy literature I should say in this case – I finished the audiobook of Alan Furst’s Blood of Victory on the elliptical machine yesterday. Who is the original author of the line, “Those who like this kind of thing will find that it is just the kind of thing they like”? Whoever it was, it aptly sums up this story of attempted sabotage of the Romanian oil fields by British agents in 1940-41. If you like Furst, you’ll like this. If not – well, not.
At the core of the book: a terrifyingly vivid depiction of the January 1941 coup attempt and anti-Jewish pogrom by Romania’s ultra-fascist Iron Guard. A favorite moment: two conspirators, one an emigre Russian semi-aristocrat, the other an unexpectedly exiled Romanian businessman, find themselves eating what both have to assume is their last meal at an underground restaurant in Belgrade. The meal sounds perfectly disgusting: chicken-liver risotto, filet of pork, red pepper puree, accompanied by local brandy. Neither man knows the other well, and they fill the meal with small talk. Finally, dessert, the last minutes before the action begins. And the Romanian businessman, with that marvelous combination of principle, courage, and embarrassment at anything that smacks of bombast that defines Furst’s most appealing characters semi-apologetically offers this farewell toast:
“To success, gentlemen. And, when all is said and done, death to tyrants.”