Eye of the Needle

by Ken Follett

Year published: 1978
Category: classic (spy) thriller

SUMMARY (adapted from jacket flap):

It is 1944, only months, then weeks before D-Day. The Allies have set up an ersatz armada of ships and planes to divert German attention to the shores of Calais, away from the actual planned invasion site in Normandy. But one enemy spy—“Die Nadel”, or “The Needle”—learns of the deception. If he escapes England and reports to Hitler, the war will be lost.


Eye of the Needle is one of ThrillerMaster Ken Follett’s best works. A fabulous Nazi-era spy thriller, this book deserves the popularity it continues to have thirty years after publication.

Set in England, the plot is simple. History professor Percival Godliman is pulled out of his academic life to work for MI5, British intelligence. His mission is to find Germany’s greatest spy, Die Nadel. With the help of Scotland Yard’s Bloggs (who lost his wife during the London Blitz), they follow the scant clues left behind as The Needle learns of the Allies D-Day deception, and tries to leave the country.

Along the way, the reader learns the sad story of a young couple who, on the eve of the man’s deployment, get married and suffer a car crash that costs the man his legs. In shame and rage, they retreat to a remote island off the coast of Scotland, where they remain until events thrust the world’s most dangerous spy into their midst, and the fate of the free world hinges on the actions of a young woman with a toddler son.

I think what makes this book truly great is the superb use of character. Yes, the plot is exciting, well-constructed, and full of wonderful historical detail. But Die Nadel is one of the best villains ever written, not because he is the most evil, but because of his complexity. I swear, for most of the book, I was rooting for him despite myself. Each challenge the spy faces, the reader actually wants him to overcome. Which makes the climax all the more compelling—how ought the story to end? How do I want it to end?

Fabulous novel. Highly recommend. Ranked in Top 100 Thrillers of all time.

Parent alert: brief graphic violence; tasteful but detailed sex scene

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