Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #101: Jackdaws by Ken Follett

An exciting war-time drama about female British agents sent to France during the Nazi occupation, charged with blowing up a crucial telephone exchange the Nazis have set up in a bomb-proof French chateau. The women must disguise themselves as cleaners to gain access to the chateau, and are recruited from all walks of life—the British aristocracy, criminals, even a transvestite—and for all sorts of reasons, with but one goal: to survive long enough to sabotage the exchange and facilitate the success of the Normandy invasion. The process of their recruitment is less than credible, and the behavior of these “agents” sometimes stretches the imagination, but they are colorful and appealing enough as individual personalities to help us embrace them.

Pitted against the group’s fearless leader Felicity Clairet is a cold-blooded German intelligence officer with a special “talent” for interrogation and a dogged determination to capture Felicity and, through her, the entire French resistance. He is an interesting character, a master torturer and psychological manipulator with less of an investment in a Nazi victory than in his own career. His relationship with his French mistress is an evolving one, which also reveals his vulnerabilities, making him an interesting and worthy counterpoint to Felicity.

Jackdaws  is a great thriller with an exciting plot, a colorful and mostly believable cast of characters, enough romance thrown in to keep everyone happy, and a nail-biting climax  sure to please the most jaded among us. If there is a bit of stereotyping of some of the Nazis (the sadistic torturer, for example), there is also a bit of stereotyping of British intelligence, but neither is so heavy-handed as to ruin a good story. Not great literature, but a good spy story and a fun ride.

ElCicco #CBR5 Review #15: The Klipfish Code by Mary Casanova


This youth lit novel’s topic is Norwegian resistance in World War II. The story is told from the point of view of Marit, a 10-year-old in 1940 when the Germans begin bombing Norway. Marit’s parents send her and her younger brother Lars to mom’s hometown to be cared for by relatives while mom and dad join the resistance. Aunt Ingeborg is a school teacher and Bestefar (grandfather) is a fisherman.

Marit’s relationship with her grandfather is strained. She feels that he has always preferred Lars and she is also angry that Bestefar seems to simply go along with the Nazis rather than resist like her parents. The author provides plenty of historical detail for young readers as the relationship between Marit and Bestefar develops. Readers will learn of the Nazis’ initial attempts to win over Norwegians as “fellow aryans”, and, failing at that, the use of intimidation and arrest to keep them in line. Norwegians had to give their blankets, food, even radios to the occupiers. Teachers and ministers were forced to teach Nazi propaganda. When they refused, churches closed and one out of every ten school teachers were rounded up and sent off to camps. Wearing traditional Norwegian garb was also construed as an act of resistance and subject to punishment.

The author presents great detail about Norway, its people, their resistance to the Nazis and the price they paid. The action takes place over several years and shows Marit maturing and taking bold action on behalf of the resistance and ultimately learning the truth about her grandfather. A decent novel for kids to learn a little about World War II and the resistance.