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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
2.0 out of 5 stars CAN YOU SPELL PREDICTABLE? Dec 5 2002
The story of an 18 year old youth who joins the Danish resistance movement and aids the British after he learns of how the Germans are utilizing radar to track and destroy British planes.
The "color by numbers" quality of the plot is not helped by the character's dialog which is, at times, almost laughable. Follet seems to be coasting on his reputation. How many authors could get away with having a plane explode when one of the characters on the ground throws a lit cigar at the fuselage?
The book is probaly good for an airplane ride but if you are looking for something a little meatier go back and reread Follet's Eye Of A Needle ot The Pillars Of The Earth.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A thriller with softish suspense May 17 2010
By S Svendsen TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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 half way through we know who will be flying. It would have been so much better if he had given it a neutral title which most of his other books have. The Nazi iron cross on the cover begs the question "why?" German Nazis play a minor role in the story and no German will be awarded the cross for valour as a result of events so its depiction is obviously a marketing ploy.

Characterization is quite good--especially of the antagonist Peter--and the provincial Danish populace and environment is credibly described. (But why did a Danish cat ever get to be called Pinetop?) The plot, built on an advanced radar installation in Denmark, is logistically weak since most English bombing raids into Germany would not have entered German airspace so close to Denmark. As with any good thriller the pace picks up as the story moves along but after the lengthy buildup I found the events in the last part of the book improbable--especially the takeoff and in-flight refueling segments. This book would have been so much better with a couple of maps and a sketch of a Hornet Moth.

This book is worth the read but it is not one of Follett's best efforts. I would give it two and a half stars out of five, but no halves are to be had so three it is.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Light Read Oct. 25 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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 tones. It was still highly enjoyable and entertaining, just not one of his bests. I would recomend it if you are looking for a good old fashioned adventure novel that is a lighter read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars a low flying tale July 15 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. Intertwined with the German and Scandanavian officials mostly Nazi's at the time there is enough fluff around the plot to keep you highly interested. I do not read fiction to criticize the facts that may be missing but to accept and enjoy the idea of the story. I would highly recommend this book.
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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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Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. As the stroy goes on, about 100 or more pages in, it finally picks up and gets better. But this is definately not one of his best works, and I would only recommend it if you like Ken Follett books and are willing to struggle through the first 100 pages. Overall you wont be disappointed, but you also wont be thrilled. Again if you like Follett's other work, you will need to read this, but if you didn't, you would not be missing much.
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4.0 out of 5 stars good flow May 28 2004
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This books takes a little while to get into until all of the characters, and their relationships, are established. Once done, it was a great read, with good flow, which makes you want to read more of his books.
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5.0 out of 5 stars follet doesn't dissapoint April 28 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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 and up with each chapter to the point where I couldn't read the pages fast enough!
The ending really left me wanting more. So far, this is my favorite of his WW2 military style books. Not quite as good as flight over water, a place called freedom, dangerous fortune or especially pillars, but it's definetly up there as one of my favorites.
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