One of my favorite authors is Alan Furst. He writes stories about espionage and partisans and resistance fighters and such. His works span the years just before and just into World War II. There is usually one protagonist who is more or less corralled and herded into a dangerous and unheralded assignment, yet carries out the assignment professionally. The suspense and danger is often palpable, and his ability to develop characters who are just average everday Joes put in a tough spot is a welcome departure from the typical James Bond/Jack Ryan super guy with no fear and a beautiful wife who just happens to be a Nobel Prize winning surgeon and Mother-of-the-Year all rolled into one.

But what Furst does better than anyone else is to tie each of his stories together in some small fashion. Each of his works is exceptional by itself and you need not read them in any particular order. The plot lines do not depend on one another, but there is always some small item in each book which is recognizable from another of his works. The more of his stuff you read, the more of these little bread crumbs you’ll find. The end result is that he paints a huge mural about the war, yet uses each book to focus in on a small piece of it for further study. Art lovers will study paintings endlessly just so they can examine and interpret each little nuance and detail. Music lovers listen to classic works over and over for just the same reason. Furst’s stories are the nuances and details in themselves. Reading his work makes one feel like God watching the whole thing from above while missing none of the small details. Truly exceptional writing.