Capt. Alexander de Milja is a chameleon. A cartographer by profession, de Milja works as an intelligence officer in the Polish underground at the outset of World War II. When the Germans discover de Milja’s identity in Poland, he goes to France and later Russia to continue his work. Under a series of false identities, mingling with the bon vivants of occupied Paris, he becomes a prized intelligence resource, surviving by cunning and passing valuable strategic information to the British. De Milja is in even more danger, working as a saboteur based in a Ukrainian forest as the Germans march east. De Milja’s disguises are many-he passes as a Russian writer, a Czech coal merchant, and a Polish horse breeder-and he embraces each persona completely as he goes about the business of espionage and sabotage. De Milja comes across as a genuine individual who, in his weaker moments, grapples with his desire to give up the fight. This well-written, realistic novel paints a vivid picture of the grayness and despair of the German occupation.
Recommended by Tom Reifenheiser