Eye of the needle, a spy thriller novel by Ken Follett is the classic dilemma story of a woman who has to choose between her lover and her country, except there is not much of a dilemma and much less love.
Faber, a dangerous German spy operating in wartime Britain, is a professional unlike the amateur spies teaming around Britain. He stumbles upon a secret which would change the outcome of the war. Now Faber has to deliver the secret along with proof to Berlin but unfortunately for him, the MI6 agents are hot on his trail. Faber continues to fool them but his luck runs out when he tries to rendezvous with an U-boat. Due to a heavy storm, he shipwrecks on a small island called as Storm Island, which is uninhabited except for Lucy, her crippled husband David, her son and a servant called as Tom. Lucy tends to the wounds of Faber and falls in love. But she soon finds out that he is a German spy and has to decide between her country and her lover.
Eye of the needle is the usual Follett fest with characters at their two dimensional best.
The beautiful, cultured, noble, sex starved heroine whose husband loses his legs right on the day of marriage and vents out his frustration at her.
The boyish lover turned husband, who, with his craze to ‘fight for England’ and his frustration when he becomes crippled; his celibacy and pugnacity towards his wife just because he lost his big chance to fight the war.
And of course, there is the hero: sly, cold, dangerous and sexy. He is fiercely independent, shows no respect for his superiors and… yeah, you guessed it, kills men who learns of his identity and sees his face. The cold hearted hero kills at the drop of the hat, but vomits afterwards, mind you.
Oh, wait. Did I mention to you that one of the men hunting the hero is a Historian turned Intelligence officer with the name of Percy Godliman? Yeah, Atta-boy.
And here is an example of Follett’s writing…
“He could see David’s face through the windscreen. The young man was leaning forward, hunched over the steering wheel, his lips drawn back over his teeth in a savage, almost maniacal grin. He seemed to be imagining himself in the cockpit of a Spitfire, coming down out of the sun at an enemy plane with all eight Browning machine-guns blazing 1260 rounds per minute.”
Really, Mr. Follett?
Here is another one:
Faber: That was evidence enough for you to try to kill me?
David: That and what you did with my wife in my house. No Englishman would ever behave like that.
This might simply look like bad writing, but believe me, it’s not. This is the oldest trick in the book, which is called as Patriotic masturbation. Not convinced? Here goes another.
When Fredrick Bloggs, Godliman’s partner, is talking about the recent death of his wife (who used to drive ambulance at night and was called affectionately as Fearless Boggs), Godliman tells Boggs that mourning has to end sometime and asks him to get on with his life and to find a girl. Bloggs replies that he would never be able to, because he considers his wife a hero and he would never be able to settle down for someone ordinary. Godliman replies, “England is full of heroes.”
The novel is not a complete disaster though. There are some good action scenes and a very good chasing scene. But all of them are affected by extremely favorable happenstances for our sly hero, except for the end where he gets killed by the naïve, harmless, widowed heroine, whose love for her nation is better than her love for Faber (which happens to be because the sexually frustrated heroine spent a night with the hero). The naïve heroine becomes the daring dame and devises booby traps in cars all of a sudden; sends Morse code for SOS, which she learned from a schoolgirl thriller! At-least you could have stated that either of the males living at the island taught it to her in case of emergency, Mr. Follett.
And need I tell you that Mr. Bloggs finds the girl to be quite a hero and decides to marry her? Yeah, totally unpredictable, isn’t it?
Oh, but one last thing. Did I mention that the British intelligence captures all the German spies and feeds the Germans with deliberate false intelligence about the coup at Normandy and Faber is the only real professional German spy at large in all of London and stumbles upon the evidence? It’s that pathetic.
Eye of the needle – Blunt.