The brunette and I are going to France next month. She prepares by buying numerous guide books and boning up on her French; I prepare by looking around for a spy novel set in Paris and wondering if I should lose a couple of pounds.
Which led me to The Foreign Correspondent, by Alan Furst. Like nearly all of Furst's novels, it's set during the tense years in Europe just before World War II. This one opens with what seems a murder-suicide at a Paris hotel in December 1938. As it happens, Mussolini's agents have eliminated the editor of a clandestine newspaper that is backing the Italian resistance. Correspondent Carlo Weisz takes over the job. (Man, I'd hate to work the desk on that newspaper).
The plot sounds fine, but I was more sold by the map of Paris on its opening pages. Better than a guidebook: How much can the City of Light have changed in 70 years? Furst is known for the authenticity with which he renders cities like Prague and Budapest; so far, I'm learning quite a bit about Paris.
I've enjoyed half a dozen of these books, including Blood of Victory, Night Soldier and Kingdom of Shadows. They sometimes move a bit too slowly to be called thrillers, but they're so moody and atmospheric they do pull you along.
Now if I can just find that beret.