Hornet Flight A Novel Hardcover – Dec 2 2002
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Great by almost every other standard, but maybe slightly below Follett's average.Published 4 months ago by David Shuster
Gripping. I really enjoyed Jackdaws. This one was another WWII spy thriller.Published 15 months ago by Joan C
I enjoy how he builds the characters and brings the story together! I also enjoy learning about that time in history.Published 18 months ago by Vicky Bondy
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 morePublished on Oct. 25 2007 by Neil Lane
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 morePublished on July 15 2004 by David A. Spearman
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 morePublished on May 30 2004 by Gerald Witt