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Hornet Flight A Novel [Hardcover]

Ken Follett
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 2 2002
Ken Follett--the master of suspense--follows his bestsellers Jackdaws and Code to Zero with an extraordinary novel of the early days of World War II.

It is June 1941 and the war is not going well for England. Somehow, the Germans are anticipating the RAF's flight paths, and shooting down British bombers with impunity. Hermia Mount, an intelligence analyst with MI6, wonders if the Germans could have perfected a radar system like the one the British themselves are struggling to achieve-but that notion itself is shot down, by her own bosses. Preposterous, she is told; stick with what she knows. But, still, she wonders.

Across the North Sea, eighteen-year-old Harald Olufsen takes a shortcut across the German-occupied Danish island of Fano on his homemade motorcycle, and comes across an astonishing sight. He doesn't know what it is, but he knows he must tell someone.

In Copenhagen, police detective and collaborator Peter Flemming searches his list of known troublemakers. The Germans are determined to discover who is smuggling information, and an idea has just come to him. This could even mean a promotion....

In the weeks to come, their lives and the lives of those close to them will intertwine, and for Harald in particular, it will be a time of trial. For when he finally learns the truth, it will all fall upon him to deliver the word to England-except that he has no way to get there. He has only an old derelict Hornet Moth biplane rusting away in the nave of a ruined church: a plane so decrepit that it is unlikely ever to get off the ground . . . even if Harald knew how to fly it.

Filled with knife-edge suspense and rich, tantalizing characters, this is Ken Follett writing at the top of his form-unforgettable storytelling from an unforgettable writer.

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From Amazon

An old-fashioned tale of ordinary people thrown into the drama and danger of war, Hornet Flight is a rippingly good read. The time is 1941, and British bombers attacking Germany are being blown out of the sky in horrific numbers. How do the Nazis know they're coming? The answer is an infant technology called radar, and the Brits--with help from the Danish Resistance--must figure out how and where the German radar stations operate.

Follett, an old pro at World War II storytelling, vividly evokes the period, creating a sense not of historical re-creation but of urgently unfolding news. His cast of characters is memorable, including Harald Olufsen, a brainy 18-year-old pulled into the Resistance half against his will, and--typically for Follett--several central, well-drawn women. The plot does have some predictable elements: for example, from the time Harald first encounters a tiny wood-and-linen biplane called a Hornet Moth, half-rotted and stored away in a Danish barn, we know that it will heroically take to the skies. Then, when the very outcome of the war begins to turn on Harald getting a certain roll of film from Denmark to England, well... you can see where things are headed. But it's great fun to watch them develop, and Follett throws in just enough unexpected shocks to keep you off balance. Though it lacks the intensity of Eye of the Needle, Follett's finest and best-known book, Hornet Flight offers generous helpings of suspense and a climax that could hardly be more satisfying. --Nicholas H. Allison

From Publishers Weekly

Bestselling Welsh author Follett has made a career out of the WWII suspense thriller (Eye of the Needle; Jackdaws), and he hits the mark again with this dramatic and tragic tale of amateur spies pursued by Nazi collaborators in occupied Denmark in 1941. Harald Olufsen is an 18-year-old physics student who stumbles into espionage when he accidentally discovers a secret German radar installation on the island where he lives. The British do not know the Germans have radar and cannot understand why British nighttime bomber losses are so high. When Harald learns there is a fledgling Danish resistance group called the Nightwatchmen, he becomes involved through his older brother, Arne, a happy-go-lucky Danish army pilot. Harald photographs the secret radar site, but the spy group quickly unravels under the pressure of Danish police detective Peter Flemming, an officious, ruthless, and arrogant cop who hates the Olufsen family for a public humiliation his father suffered years before. The amateur spy network underestimates the police with tragic and deadly results, and soon Harald and his Jewish girlfriend, Karen, must plan a desperate aerial escape to get the photographs to England. Follett starts out fast and keeps up the pace, revealing how ordinary people who want to do the right thing are undone by their own enthusiasm and inexperience. He also paints a vivid and convincing picture of life in occupied Denmark, of easy collaboration with the Nazis and of the insidious, creeping persecution of the Jews.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Follett Lite June 29 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Follett's forte is WWII spy novels. This one fits the genre but is not up to his usual standard. It is a fast read - mostly because there is not much there.
A Danish 18 year old mechanical genius gets drawn into the spy game when he stumbles upon a German radar installation. His older brother also gets drawn in by his English fiance. When older brother asks younger about the installation they realize it would be better for younger to photograph it. While he's on that trip, older brother gets captured and kills himself before he can be turned over to the Gestapo. Of course, the younger also developes a romantic interest who helps him reconstruct a two seat airplane to take them and the photographs to England.
Follett leaves much to the imagination - or gullibility - of the reader. Somehow these two young people repair this broken plane in just a few days while working right next to a German encampment (conveniently placed so they can get petrol).
The characters are likeable and believable. The pages turn quickly thanks to Follett's good, clean crisp style. The Danish cop with a grudge against the brothers' family is a wonderfully evil character.
The plot is simple, yet good. The book just lacks depth to give it a higher rating. Still in all, a fun read - good for the beach.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Typical high quality Follett novel April 6 2004
Hornet Flight is another great book by English author Ken Follett. Set in Denmark in WWII, a young boy named Harold must find away to get some secrets back to England after all other means have failed. He is pursued by the policeman Peter Fleming, a childhood friend of Harold's brother who now hates Harold's family.
I listened to this book on Audio-Tape and found it very interesting and well-read.
I have several observations about this book.
Hornet Flight is different than most WWII novels in that it focuses a lot more on characters and their lives as opposed to actual events of World War II. In this way, it is like other Follett books where all characters are done well yet so many characters are the same from book to book. Still this isn't a fault, because I enjoy Follett's books from beginning to end because of the quality characterization (as oppossed to some books where the entire book is read to get to the payoff at the end.)
Peter Fleming, the bad guy in the book, has some human qualities at first, especially as he cares for his handicapped wife. Fleming's anger over what happened to his wife turns him into a hateful person focused only on stopping Harold. Peter and his partner Tilde never seem that bad because they appear to be doing what the police would have to do in a country run by Nazis. They are just doing their duty.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for a strong character based, action novel. If you are turned off by the swastika on the cover, don't be, because while this book is set in WWII, its quality is not dependent upon that fact.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Brain Candy at 35000 ft Feb. 11 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Ken Follett came through for me again in this book. He is not Melville, not Chaucer, and not Steinbeck, but he does churn out good books that serve well to relieve the boredom of an in-flight movie or another bag of peanuts.
The one item that I didn't enjoy about this book from the perspective of plot was the fact that nothing works out for the protagonist and his cronies until the very end. Contrived as it may seem, you know when you pick up the book and read the jacket that he is going to make it and deliver the secrets just in the nick of time. The problem with this is that when you get a third of the way into it, and he seems about to deliver the secrets, you know that it won't work. The same thing happens at least 3 more times in this book, each time saw me checking how many pages I had left and then looking back at the title and realizing that unless he is getting into the Hornet...he isn't going to make it this time either.
Beyond that, if you are standing at the bookstore at LAX at 8:30 in the morning in the face of a 5 hour flight, you can't go wrong with Ken Follett.
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3.0 out of 5 stars busy as a bee Dec 13 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I had a hard time putting this novel down, there are no easy stopping places in this well-paced thriller. The setting is early war-time Denmark, recently surrendered to the Germans, and under a then light Nazi heel (the only privation seems to be limits on petrol and butter). The British bomber fleet is having a disastrous time of it flying across Denmark, for unknown reasons obvious to the modern reader. It takes a while to develop a fast pace-with diversions into three discreetly developed love stories-but Follett always has something going on: sneaking, spying, flying, hiding, plotting, chasing, etc. We see developments through the words of several characters, from Danish innocents to dutiful Nazi Socialist sympathizers in the police. The premise is intriguing. There are clearer explanations of flying an airplane than I've ever seen before, in very basic Hornet and Tiger Moth biplanes.
The whole book smells of a concoction, or more charitably, an entertainment. Reading the unfortunately explicit blurb first, much of the suspense was removed for me. You can watch Follett pre-positioning the people, skill, and equipment needed for the successful espionage. You can kinda tell what's going to happen: who's going to be the hero, who's going to get which girl, how they'll escape. Another reason this isn't a real thriller is the lack of atmosphere, it never hits you in the gut, just buccolic Denmark in the summer of 1941. It lacks ominous scenes, shocking coincidences, menacing Ge.sta.po, or vibrant descriptions of anybody or anyplace. The characters are pleasant or bad enough, but no one's "grey' or conflicted and it all seems a bit easy for them. Even the schoolboy hero can figure out the Germans' technology before the British physicists. The ending seems much too hasty after the long buildup.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A thriller with softish suspense
I can't understand why Follett named this thriller 'Hornet Flight.' Already from one third through the book we know it is going to end with a flight by the Hornet Moth and from... Read more
Published on May 17 2010 by S Svendsen
3.0 out of 5 stars Light Read
After reading Eye Of The Needle by Follett I was eager to pick up another of his war novels. I found this book to be slower paced, a little more predictable, and with lighter... Read more
Published on Oct. 25 2007 by Neil Lane
4.0 out of 5 stars a low flying tale
Mr. Follett will always be counted on to produce a fine solid novel. I understand the main plot came from a factual incident and certainly is a solid idea for a novel. Read more
Published on July 15 2004 by David A. Spearman
3.0 out of 5 stars Hornets Flight takes off slow but flies just average...
I love Ken Follett and his books, but sometimes they do not always hit and this is one of those. The book starts out really slow and it is hard to identify with the characters. Read more
Published on May 30 2004 by Gerald Witt
4.0 out of 5 stars good flow
This books takes a little while to get into until all of the characters, and their relationships, are established. Read more
Published on May 28 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars follet doesn't dissapoint
this is another great period peice by the master, Ken Follet. The book starts out on the slow side and there are alot of character to keep straight, but it keeps picking up and up... Read more
Published on April 28 2004 by Matthew Schiariti
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but long drawn
This novel, set in early WWII(1941), is about the development of radar by the Nazis. It tells the story of how a handful of Danes (-part of a resistance/espionage movement) work in... Read more
Published on March 22 2004 by Sanjeev M. Raman
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine WW2 Thriller...
follett does it again! a fine ww2 tale! i really enjoyed hornet flight.
Published on Feb. 14 2004 by T. A Molina
4.0 out of 5 stars Failed research
One of Follett's research assistants must be suffering a premonition as he has a PV444 Volvo in the story (in 1941), a car that wasn't introduced until 1944.
Published on Jan. 30 2004 by Dick Carlson
3.0 out of 5 stars OK Read - Better than average
This was an OK read. I would recommend it, but not a top list read. One character that was interesting was Peter. He is one evil dude. Read more
Published on Jan. 20 2004 by Colorado Reader
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