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Monday 6 November 2023

JACKDAWS - book review


The prolific Ken Follett’s Jackdaws was published in 2001. His output is varied and broad in theme and place and time. Here, he returns to the Second World War and spies – some twenty-three years after his WWII debut novel Eye of the Needle.

The story covers the nine days before D-Day, June 6, 1944. Twenty-eight-year-old Felicity 'Flick' Clairet, an SOE agent is leading a Resistance assault on a French chateau in the village of Sainte-Cecile, the German communications hub for the area. But it goes wrong and she and her French husband barely manage to escape. Some of their team are killed and others are captured.

The German interrogator is Colonel Dieter Franck who, while not enjoying inflicting pain on his victims, is good at it. The Germans are aware that an invasion is about to occur soon and that will entail the rising up of many Resistance cells. He is certain that if he can break the will of his captives, he can learn details about the various groups.

Flick returns to England and is given permission to try again to crack the chateau communications hub. She recruits the Jackdaws, a ‘dirty half-dozen’ – all-female team to infiltrate in place of the regular cleaners. Not all of them will survive...

This is a typical Follett page-turner with characters you soon come to know and care about. Even Franck evokes a measure of sympathy. The interrogators, the invaders, considered the SOE agents as terrorists. Both sides were ruthless. In these sensitive times perhaps some readers will find certain aspects of the violence depicted as distressing; yet this kind of thing – and worse – happened. I’ve read a number of nonfiction and fiction books about the SOE and Follett’s research seems very accurate – and never slows the pace.

If you want an involving fast read, this suspenseful thriller will fit the bill.

Editorial comment:

Blame the editor. On p312 a coded message mentions Friday 1 June. Yet on p315 we’re told that Friday is 2 June. Oops. [Hopefully it has been amended since my 2002 edition].

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