JACKDAWS by Ken Follett
Dutton, December 2001
D-Day is fast approaching, but the German army is too strong, too well coordinated, to assure success. And if the allied invasion failed, France and continental Europe will remain under Nazi control for years. A French resistance group, led by beautiful British spy Felicity (Flick) Clairet, is assigned a critical telecommunications center as a target but run into deadly resistance. Flick decides to go back, accompanied by an all-woman group who can pose as cleaners--but she doesn't count on the German counter-espionage expert, Major Dieter Franck, who picked up the pieces of her failed raid and sees her capture as a way of rolling up much of the French Resistance.
Much of the local support that Flick has counted on is already compromised by Dieter but she has no choice but to continue. D-Day has to be close--days or hours away, and failure by either side may literally mean the difference between winning and losing the war.
The war between Britain and Germany takes on a more personal tone as Dieter and Flick try to leapfrog the other, their motivations escalating from professional to highly personal over the course of the novel. Author Ken Follett does a wonderful job making Dieter somewhat sympathetic despite the Nazi regime he supports and the methods he uses to wring the truth from his captives. In the post-September 11 period, Dieter's identification of the French Resistance as terrorists adds impact to the story in a way that Follett probably did not expect.
Follett's story-telling is so smooth that JACKDAWS becomes almost experienced, like a movie, rather than a set of words on paper. I couldn't tell you much about Follett's style--I was too involved in the story.
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