Ken Follett is among the best at writing thrillers that hook you and never let you go.
In interviews, he acknowledged that “Eye of the Needle” was his breakthrough novel. It surely deserves all the praise it has received.
In 1940, the The Abwehr, (German Intelligence), has planted their finest agent in Great Britain---code name “The Needle.” Using the name Henry Faber, he works as a railway clerk and attempts to be invisible.
Using his bicycle for transportation, he observes all the war preparations and anything that would be helpful for the German bombers.
As the war progresses, Faber continues his adroit undercover work---radioing the info back to The Fatherland.
Meanwhile the Allies are utilizing a disinformation campaign designed to convince the Germans that the European Invasion (D-Day) will take place at Pas de Calais. Ships and tanks that are merely rubber and timber, barracks that were a movie set, etc. were utilized to persuade the enemy that Patton had a huge Army ready to invade.
Double agents that MI5 had turned churned out radio reports furthering the deception.
If the Germans learn of the great ruse, thousands could be lost. The Needle chances upon the phony barracks and tanks and knows this info must be delivered in person to the Fuhrer.
However, he has to eliminate some Allied soldiers who spot him as he leaves the fake army base. Their discovery leads to cat and mouse chase.
His escape via U-Boat 505 off the North Sea coast is hampered by a violent squall grounding all sea and air transportation. Faber is shipwrecked on a remote rock island with four inhabitants. There he must perpetuate his counterfeit persona until the weather clears.
Meanwhile, MI5 is closing in while working on the scant clues Faber leaves in his wake. They too are hampered by the weather.
The novel moves at a measured pace that heightens the suspense with each turn of the page. Faber is great villain whose cunning keeps him a step ahead MI5. The crew from MI5 are dogged in their pursuit and thorough in the procedural methodology. It is a remarkable match up.
Using an economical cast, all the characters are fully fleshed out. You know everyone quite well.
While the last 48 hours before the weather clears are intensely gripping, the entire narrative is mesmerizing and attention grabbing. This is a breathtaking “what if” take on an important slice of history.
Since we all know how WWII turned out, the outcome may never be in doubt…but how MI5 closes the trap is a superb ride.