--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
In his own bestselling tradition of Eye of the Needle and The Key to Rebecca, Ken Follett once again strikes Nazi pay dirt as a gang of all-female saboteurs go behind German lines.
Flick has to persuade herself that she is ready for her most important mission: to inaugurate a fighting team for an attack on a château used as a key Gestapo base--her team (all women, with one exception) are the eponymous "jackdaws". This fresh concept is carried off with the kind of effortless skill that was the distinguishing feature of Follett's best books, and his protagonist Flick is a distinctive, unusual creation. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
These facts may be true, and the proof is that Follett wrote two thrillers in sequence, less than one year apart, going back to the subject and the atmosphere he knows best: World War II. It seems his public liked the change. At least, the reviews are a lot kinder than before.
"Jackdaws" is the story of a group of women lead by secret agent Flick Clairet. Their mission is to parachute into occupied France, and blow-up a telephone exchange that will help provide the security the Allies need on D-day. OK. That's a good subject. The plot in "Jackdaws" is interesting and the pace is very fast. In fact, the very opening scene is a pistol shooting between the Gestapo and agents of the french Resistence. The chapters are all full of action, and Follett doesn't let the rhythm slow down. Yes, it seems he's back on track.
But there are some problems. I was left with the impression that, though the plot is interesting, it's somewhat thin, and Follett had to struggle hard to keep the reader's full-time attention. That's why there are so many cold-blooded murders, shootings, etc. One other problem is about the characters. Flick Clairet and the nazi torturer, Dieter Franck, are both cool (enemies at haeart), but also full of contradictions. Sometimes what they did and said was plainly wrong. And all other characters are shallow to the point of oblivion. Follett tried to spice things up: there's homosexualism, a transexual, one (almost hot) lesbian scene. But it didn't work out as well as he intended, because he concentrated to much of the book's focus on the two main characters.
I give "Jackdaws" 4 stars because, even if it's not Follett's best, it kept me up reading way after midnight. And also because Follett shows that he worries about his readers. It's like he's thinking: "OK, I tried to change subjects, but maybe I didn't do my homework so well. I'll go back to World War II, give my constant readers (as Stephen King would say) two good books on that subject, and then I'll do a better research on future stories that are not about WWII". Let's hope this is true.
Ken Follett is a master at putting you in the time period he is writing about. I loved this book and I look forward to reading many of his other WWII fiction. I highly recommend this book to anyone.