Furst’s descriptions of occupied Paris are certainly sinister ('Eyes searching the darkness, he had to move slowly, pausing at doorways where he could hide if necessary, hurrying to cross a narrow street, and listening intently for the telltale sounds of the police patrols'), but his is a Paris where the people never seem to give up hope, where their love for France and for their beloved city inspires them to take defiant risks. Furst’s novels are immensely popular, perhaps because, despite their European setting, they can be read in the tradition of the American western. Like Shane, Furst’s heroes tend to be loners — Marlboro men, we used to call them in the days of cigarette ads. They take on the burden of an entire city or country. And while they may work with a group, as Mathieu does, they carry the responsibility of that group on their own shoulders.
...emotionally gripping and hugely satisfying...Furst is a relentless and exacting researcher, and other memorable scenes are of hair-raising air battles over France; attempts to land small British rescue aircraft in farmers’ fields; sneaking demolition artists ashore near a casino in Deauville to begin the work of disrupting the machinery of the occupation. It is dangerous work every minute of every day, and not all cell members survive...Furst rolls all of this out with his usual steady-as-she-goes pacing and a prose style that nicely mixes the elegant and the matter-of-fact.
The end of the book is nostalgic and perhaps a soupçon pat, unless you pay attention to how Furst refers back to the links of his story's chain. There are villains. There are people who use each other. There are obligatory sex scenes and yet, and yet — in the midst of one that's naughtier-than-usual, Mathieu remarks to his lover Joëlle that 'Women are just as wicked as men, even worse, once they feel free.' So much of Furst's strengths, past and future, rest in this statement: The knowledge of human nature, the belief in liberty, and the understanding that women can be men's equals in courage as well as pleasure. Instead of a book where characters mourn bygone pleasures, in A Hero of France they savor the fleeting ones of the present.
...tense, evocative, and greatly satisfying...Mr. Furst’s great gift for re-creating the sights, smells and spirit of World War II European milieus is again on fine display in this case, with a beleaguered French capital clinging to hope, dignity and joie de vivre.
The good news for devotees of suspense novelist Alan Furst is that his latest book, A Hero of France, is a lot like his last nine or ten. Nah, why beat around the bush? In every significant way, it’s exactly like them ... his reprises of the same scenario have gone from stimulating to predictable to damn near stupefying ... Furst is peddling awfully moldy fantasies of the romance of it all. Those fantasies unmistakably entrance him, which is how come you can’t call him a hack. But he owes his reputation to disguising them with artfully oblique writing and a patina of quasi-documentary verisimilitude ... Like all of his work, A Hero of France has many nice touches. Furst is never inelegant; that’s one more of his vices ... his work is also a reminder that any historical past we haven’t known firsthand is bound to turn into Disneyland sooner or later. Even so, it’s striking how Furst steers clear of dramatizing his chosen epoch’s genuine atrocities.