Le Réseau Corneille
Penzler Pick, Each book by Ken Follett, one of the most successful suspense writers of our time, is a welcome event. With Jackdaws, he returns to his most successful era, the darkest days of World War II.
It is 1944 and the Allies are preparing for the invasion of Europe. In the occupied town of Sainte-Cecile, the French Resistance is preparing to blow up the chateau that now houses the crucial telephone exchange connecting the French telephone system to that of Germany. Bombers have been unable to inflict enough damage on the chateau to disrupt communications for more than a few hours at a time, but the Allies need to make sure that communications is down for longer so that there will be as little warning of the invasion as possible.
Felicity Clariet, known as Flick, is a British secret agent patrolling the streets around the chateau waiting for the first explosions that will give the signal for the attack to begin. She is married to Michel, a Resistance fighter. When the operation goes horribly wrong, they barely escape with their lives and Flick returns to her home in London--but not for long. When Flick returns to France it will be as part of an audacious, quickly assembled plan to put female spies in the chateau as telephone operators and cleaners, enabling the Allies to destroy the ability of the Exchange to warn Germany in advance of the landing on the beaches of Normandy. The twists and turns of the plot will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Follett tells us that Jackdaws is based on a true story. The Special Operations Executive sent 50 women into France as secret agents. Thirty-six survived. --Otto Penzler
From Publishers Weekly
Time is running out. With D-Day rapidly approaching, the Nazis are actively trying to quash the French resistance. Meanwhile, Britain's Special Operations branch is working hard to supply the resistance with intelligence, supplies and agents. Felicity "Flick" Clairet is one of England's most effective operatives in northern France. Having failed in an assault on the Nazis' main European telephone exchange, she regroups in England for another attempt, this time with an all-female team that will infiltrate the exchange under the guise of a French cleaning staff. Unfortunately, finding female agents fluent in French proves impossible and Flick resorts to crash-training nonprofessionals for the task. Imagine Charlie's Angels (minus the campiness) in The Guns of Navarone. Written in Follett's (Pillars of the Earth, etc.) riveting style and with his penchant for historical detail, the Jackdaws (the codename of the all-girl team) are given a heightened air of authenticity with Kate Reading's performance. She flavors her confident delivery with a wry cynicism that is inherent to Flick's character, and her use of international as well as regional accents keeps the rapid narrative flowing flawlessly. Simultaneous release with the Dutton hardcover (Forecasts, Oct. 15, 2001).
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