The book is set in the period of the Second World War prior to the Allied offensive at Normandy. All attempts were being made to convince the German forces that the Allied offensive would strike at the site of Calais rather than Normandy so that when the ploy was exposed, the movement of the German forces would be blocked by the Seine river. Thus the Allied forces had stationed a simulation of an army using dummies and models near the Pas de Calais so that to aerial watchers it looked like a preparation for an offensive. The story begins when Henry Faber, a German spy working at an English railway depot is charged to obtain further information on the Allied offensive. However, the German counter spies have already informed the British High Command of his existence and Faber is now a hunted man. Nicknamed 'The Needle' or 'Die Nadel' in German for his favourite killing weapon, the stilleto, he is Germany's best spy and the only thing standing in the way of an overwhelming Allied victory. A nationwide man hunt begins to seek and destroy the Needle before he reports of the ruse at Calais to his superiors and destroys the only chance of ending the war for the Allies. The odds are stacked against him, but the Needle is capable, intelligent and completely ruthless...
Although fictitious, the book explores an important time of the war. Had the ruse not been successful, the Allies would never have got their victory on D-Day and the entire history of the world would have been different. Through the eyes of a foreign spy, the book sheds light upon the espionage techniques of that time and gives the reader some historical idea of the day to day life during that turbulent period.
The book is a narrative in the third person, mostly focussing on the titular character. The thread of narration jumps occasionally as per the requirements of the plot. The language used is simple and easy to understand and the reader is gripped by the plot and events of the book without being distracted by intricacies of embedded philosophy or of language.
One of many excellent works by Ken Follett, I must confess to being one of his fans. What I liked most about the book was that it does not ask you to judge any character, rather just to understand the motive behind the actions. The book has depicted how an effective spy functions: not a cloak-and-dagger pantomime but a combination of hard work and intelligence i.e estimating troop movements simply by checking the loading of each compartment. A thoroughly enjoyable read, this book endures in memory for a long time.
Book Reviewed By Sayan Mukherjee
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