cover image The Polish Officer

The Polish Officer

Alan Furst. Random House (NY), $23 (325pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41312-7

With clear, reticent prose and his trademark mastery of historical detail, Furst (Shadow Trade; Night Soldiers) brings vividly to life this WWII-era tale of espionage and bravery, chronicling the work of the Polish underground in Poland, France and the Ukraine. As Warsaw is falling in 1939, Polish Captain Alexander de Milja embarks on a harrowing journey to smuggle the national gold reserves out of the country by rail-the first of many death-defying missions he will undertake for the nascent ZWZ, the Union for Armed Struggle. Under a series of false identities, mingling with the bon vivants of occupied Paris, he later becomes a prized intelligence resource in France, surviving by cunning and passing valuable strategic information to the British. In the novel's final section, de Milja is in even more danger, working as a saboteur based in a Ukrainian forest as the Germans march east. Throughout these dramatic events, Furst's understated narrative is insightful and convincing. The unassuming de Milja-who considers himself merely ``unafraid to die, and lucky so far''-proves an engaging protagonist. His exploits and the courageous sacrifices of the ordinary patriots who help him are both thrilling and at times inspiring. (Feb.)