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By Ken Follett

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Large Print Edition
By Ken Follett
Random House Large Print, (2001)
ISBN: 0-375-43159-4
Genre: Fiction

Reviewed by Herbert White - May 9, 2002

Jackdaws is an intriguing novel about Allied espionage and sabotage activities during World War II. Unlike most such novels which deal with male agents, this book is about a group of women operating behind enemy lines. This book has been compared to, The Dirty Dozen (by E. M. Nathanson), and rightly so as there are many superficial similarities between the two stories. In The Dirty Dozen a group of Army misfits 'volunteer' to go behind enemy lines to go on a virtual suicide mission. The reason that these men were willing to volunteer for such a mission is that, when they were recruited, most where in prison - sentenced to be executed. The members of this odd group all turn out to be excellent soldiers, and they go on to achieve their objective while, at the same time, tweaking various Nazi noses.

Jackdaws is similar to The Dirty Dozen in that Felicity Clairet recruits a group of odd-balls to go on a sabotage mission behind enemy lines. Clairet is a senior operative in the British Special Operations Executive. The mix of characters that Clairet recruits is unique, and includes a couple of lesbians and a transvestite - who may, or may not, count as a woman, depending upon your point of view. However, the similarities in these two stories end in how the two groups were organized.

Jackdaws is set in the 1944, shortly before D-Day. Clairet's world is destroyed when a mission she goes on is compromised and everything that can go wrong does. Her response is to recruit a new group of operatives, and try for a new target. To this end, she collects her odd-assortment of women warriors, and heads out to once again face the enemy. This new group is code-named Jackdaws, and their mission is to destroy a major telephone exchange in France. Unbeknownst to Clairet, this mission has already been placed in jeopardy - before it even begins.

This is not Follett's best book, but it is nonetheless an excellent story. Follett immediately puts you into the action, and he keeps your attention throughout the story. Jackdaws is both a thriller and a mystery, and he keeps you guessing right up to the end - for it is only then that all the questions asked in the book are answers. Don't start this book unless you have time to read it all in one sitting - it is a real page turner.

Editor's note: E. M. Nathanson's book, Dirty Dozen, served as the basis for the hit movie, The Dirty Dozen that starred Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas and Jim Brown.

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