The Travelers


The Travelers, published by Chris Pavone in 2016, is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a long time.  And that’s interesting, because his basic premise could easily have been too far fetched to support a short story, let alone a 646 page (in the edition I read) tome.

Maybe one of the things that helps the book succeed is the main character, a travel writer who is a nice young man with standards in life, including doing his job well and being faithful to his wife.  A second positive factor is that while Will Rhodes is the main character, several other personages, both good and bad, are presented in non-judgmental detail.  This leads to the source of the suspense that carries the plot along – which of the characters are the good guys and which are the bad guys?  Except for Will, whose motivations are innocent as he gets himself in trouble, we don’t know which side the other characters are on.  One side may represent the CIA, even though it engages in some apparent crimes, but which one?

I can think of a third factor that makes the book enjoyable, and that is the development of Will Rhodes as he marshals his strengths, which are diligence, thoroughness, and willingness to try new things and to head undeterred into unappealing situations, to solve his problems.


A Hero in France


A Hero in France, Alan Furst’s latest historical espionage novel, was published in 2016.  Set in World War II Paris, it’s as good as the cover blurbs claim:

Thorough research of the history, people, and places – Check.

Meticulous recreation of the atmosphere by inclusion of real details and anecdotes –  Check.

Creation of a plausible protagonist who epitomizes the heroism of good and capable but relatively ordinary people under extreme circumstances – Check.

Furst also routinely includes a few sex scenes in his books, ranging from standard to slightly daring.  Since not all of them seem to flow naturally from the narrative, I assume they are all part of his formula for success.

One of the cover blurbs compares him to John le Carré, which I don’t think is much of a compliment.  Le Carré started out well, but spiraled downward into an obsession with the evils of America that poisoned his later books.  Maybe, if you have to get all your hatred of the U.S. off your chest, it would be better to write some opinion pieces instead of letting it dominate your fiction.  Just saying.