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18 August 2013

Ken Follett: Eye of the Needle

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Great Golden Oldie WW2 Spy Thriller
With "Eye of the Needle" Ken Follett has written one of the best WW2 spy thrillers. In 1944 the most vital information on the outcome of the war was the location of the invasion of France - information that could fundamentally change the outcome of the war. The location of the landings in Normandy was closest kept secret with MI5 implementing the most amazing misinformation campaign in history.

By 1944 MI5 had caught and executed most German spies, but was able to turn some into double agents sending misleading information back to Germany. There was one ruthless agent - nickname "The Needle" (Die Nadel) - who was able to elude capture for years. What was even more important was that Adolf Hitler knew him and trusted everything that he sent back to Germany and was waiting for his report about where the landings would take place.

Follett creates a wide range of memorable characters, including the cold blooded Die Nadel. An absent minded Professor becomes head of MI5 strategy of disinformation, helped by his Scotland Yard assistant whose wife was killed in the Blitz. A young Spitfire pilot who loses his legs in a car accident on his honeymoon ends up in a loveless marriage hiding from the war on a remote island off the coast of Scotland.

Follett sets up an exciting chase when Die Nadel tries to escape with the information Hitler needs. The plot surprisingly shifts focus at the end from a spy thriller to a unexpected lusty romance with a chilling ending.

This tale is not only exciting but also plausible (see Mark Black's  "D-Day: A Very Brief History"), with vivid details about life in the United Kingdom during the War. It was an enthralling and electrifying story (you must read the ending to really understand what I mean).

While reading this book I kept comparing it with Jack Higgins "Night of the Fox" which is also based on the secrecy of the location of the D Day landings. The stories have completely different angles and my comparative rating is a dead-heat.

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