"Hornet Flight" is that sort of delight. I was an early Follett fan, devouring "The Eye of the Needle," "The Key to Rebecca," and "The Man from St. Petersburg." His strengths--his characters, his detailed research, his pacing--kept me coming back for more. Then, as Follett branched into other areas of fiction, my interest wavered.
The WWII theme of this latest book brought me back, and I discovered that forgotten "five dollar bill." The story revolves around young Harald Olafsun, a Danish man faced with the occupation of the Nazis and the bland apathy of many of his countrymen. When he realizes that the Nazis have a new technology that gives them the edge in air-battles, when he finds himself entangled in a budding resistance movement, he uncovers his own courage and the surprising resilence of his fellow people...and the treachery of some of her trusted authorities. Soon, Harald and an attractive Danish upperclass girl come to the realization that they alone have the ability to get invaluable info to the British by way of a dangerous flight in a dilapidated Hornet Moth.
"Hornet Flight" is not the most valuable thriller I've ever found, not the slickest or most modern, but it's a nice surprise all the same. Follett's old skills are evident--characters we can believe, well-balanced pacing, and the details to make wartime Denmark seem touchable. I'm sure glad I dug into these old pockets. You just never know what you might find.
Follett is no stranger to World War II yarns, but he approaches this thriller with a new and refreshing perspective. Rather than painting the Germans as rabid Nazis, he portrays them only as menacing background. The real villain is a Danish detective with a very complex personality, determined to break the spy ring and extract personal vengeance from Harald and his family. The hero is imperfect, yielding a clever idea one moment and staggering into a pitfall the next. This heightens the realism and suspense. In fact, Follett downplays his normal gunplay, using the space to develop a very rich ensemble of characters woven into an intriguing and rewarding story.
"Hornet Flight" neither begins nor ends with explosions. The reader ends up enjoying the journey as much as the destination.
Hermia secretly travels into Denmark and meets with her fiancé Arnie Olufsen, whose family lives on Sandee. He agrees to obtain the pictures of the radar installation and give them to her but his younger brother, Harald who has already been inside the edifice persuades him to led him undertake the mission. When a tragedy befalls Arnie, it is up to Harald and his beautiful compatriot Karen who must deliver the pictures to the English.
HORNET FLIGHT is chock full of action, suspense and seat of your pants adventure. Readers will see that though Denmark surrendered twenty-four hours after Nazi Germany invaded, her people became the backbone for a strong underground resistance movement. Though coincidence facilitated the beginning of the strong plot, World War II buffs will want a sequel because the secondary characters deserve to have their story told. Ken Follet proves once again that he is the master of intrigue.
Perhaps because it's remarkably easy to read, HORNET FLIGHT is so simplistic and predictable it feels in places more like a children's novel than an adult suspense thriller. There's seldom any doubt about what will happen next, and even the deaths along the way don't evoke much sorrow. Although the final getaway does keep the pages turning, the only question raised is how the obvious outcome will be achieved. The techniques used to create suspense read exactly like what they are -- plot props. I found it disconcerting to be always one step ahead of the author and I wanted to scream at the characters to get their heads out of the clouds and make use of their brains. By the time their lightbulbs flash on, the reader has been bearing the burden of knowledge for fifty pages.
Where HORNET FLIGHT wins its four stars, however, is in the incredibly real setting. Never does the narrative read like a textbook, never is information included simply for the sake of being information. The life of the Danish in their captured country is penned with such an apparently effortless accuracy that I kept forgetting Follett hadn't been there to observe it all.
Suspenseful? No. But well written, interesting, and informative -- HORNET FLIGHT is definitely all that.