“A HERO IN FRANCE” is a story set during the early months of the German Occupation of France during the Second World War. It is centered around a Frenchman with the nom de guerre “Mathieu” who has cast off the trappings of his previous life in Paris to join the ranks of the Resistance. Mathieu is in his early 40s, fairly fit, resourceful, tough, determined, yet not without charm and a knack for making friends in the most interesting places. Unlike most French people, who at this stage of the war (the novel begins in a wintry, melancholic Paris in March 1941) were largely resigned to the defeat France had suffered at the hands of the Third Reich in June 1940, Mathieu is determined to fight the Germans any way he can. To this end, he has been part of a network that has formed a pipeline between the Occupied Zone and Vichy France, spiriting downed RAF (Royal Air Force) flyers out of France into Spain, where they would be repatriated back to the UK.
Resistance activities had started off on a very small scale from late 1940. But as the months wore on, the Germans began to show their impatience and frustration from their efforts to discourage random acts of vandalism, the occasional murder of a German officer, and sabotage. Thus, a police inspector from Hamburg was enlisted by Berlin to go to Paris (as a temporary major in the Feldgendarmerie, the German Army Military Police) and see what he could do to break up the Resistance pipeline of which Mathieu is an instrumental part.
What I like about an Alan Furst novel is his knack for evoking the atmosphere of German-occupied Europe and creating a set of characters who struggle to survive, endure, and fight the Nazi yoke. Anyone who wants to lose him/herself in a taut, well-told story rich with cinematic overtones, look no further. “A HERO IN FRANCE” is the novel for you.