The Key to Rebecca

Despite my love of suspense I’m not particularly well-versed in thrillers, and have never made the acquaintance of Smiley or Bourne. I do, however, have a fondness for Helen MacInnes’ espionage stories, WWII settings, and above all the gothic romance novel Rebecca. With all this recommendation I knew that at some point or another I would have try Ken Follett’s The Key to Rebecca.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite what I had expected. In the future I should probably stick to thrillers written by women. First off, probably any novel could have played the role of the Daphne DuMaurier classic–most likely it was chosen to make a compelling title.

In 1942 Cairo German/Egyptian Alex Wolff is the perfect spy, and British forces are powerless in their searches for him. Captain Vandam especially recognizes this as an iminent danger, and enlists the unsatisfied Elene Fontana to search for information and eventually seduce Wolff.

For some reason, much of this book seemed distasteful to me. I know I should expect some violence in a thriller and won’t complain about that. However, Follett seems to suggest that in espionage the best way to get what you want is through physical relationships, for both sides. In addition about half the story is told from Wolff’s perspective, and he is certainly not a likable character–of course the enemy is never portrayed as such. It seems natural in life to praise the Nathan Hales and despise the Benedict Arnolds.

There are good qualities to this novel as well, namely the fact that it seems thoroughly researched. I knew little of the African continent’s involvement in WWII save vague mentions in history class about Eisenhower. This was truly enlightening as to the scope of battles, and also the general undercurrents of tension between British and Egyptians at the time.

Spoiler alert: Some of my favorite parts are the clues and ruses used by Elene and Vandam near the end, which seemed like they could even be out of a different book. Despite Wolff’s evasive cleverness much of the story seems to brush over quick-thinking, which for me is the only really interesting part of thrillers.

Of course by the end I was reading quickly to find out what would happen, but if this wasn’t for a challenge I probably would have put it down to go to bed a while ago. And I think that pretty much sums up how I felt about the book.

Published in: on June 6, 2009 at 1:57 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: