Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett is my introduction to the popular British author. Having been recommended to read The Pillars of the Earth due to my interest in suddenly wanting to read a book on political intrigue, I thought I’d start off with one of his less “ambitious” books. At around 400 pages, I figured it would give me a good idea of if I’d like the author or not prior to beginning a 1000+ page monster. After devouring the book, I have some good news and some bad. On the good side, I absolutely love how he weaves a story together. Everything flowed very nicely from chapter to chapter and things were well described but without overdoing it. His writing style is not boring but I wouldn’t say it’s particularly exciting. He manages to achieve a pretty good balance between the two. Sadly though, Eye of the Needle left me pretty disappointed, story wise, after having finished it and I’m hoping this was just a draw of the luck and that his other books doesn’t end like this as well.
Eye of the Needle feels and reads like what you’d expect from a traditional try-and-capture-the-spy type story. I love how he crafted the spy to be a calculated individual and not make him the mass murderer type. Killing only when necessary rather than using brute force makes reading more fun as you get to see how the character will use his wits to escape certain scenarios unscathed and without leaving a hint of evidence of his real identity. The other characters I’d say were a little above average. They moved the story along but they really didn’t do anything that’ll make you remember them afterwards.
Here’s the burner. While the better part of the book kept me interested, I came away awfully disappointed at the ending and how things played out overall. Not only did the main character do a complete 180 but after the end, I realized that calling this a typical cat and mouse game is being very generous. It was more like detectives following criminal from point A to point B, then C, then D, etc etc because they were always one step too late. The detectives, for all their hard work, never really forces the spy to go out of his comfort zone to try and corner him. It was disappointing to say the least because you’d expect so much more not only for the guys doing the chasing but from the spy himself as well. In the end, I literally thought to myself was that it? Felt like the author used his get out of jail card.
In the end though, I still thought Eye of the Needle was an okay book. I don’t usually dissect a book page for page, word for word. If it keeps me interested enough to keep reading, then the author did their job and for that much I can definitely give Ken Follett his props here. I can definitely see myself reading a 1000+ page novel from him and that’s not something I often find myself saying. I’m just hoping he doesn’t pull this type of ending on me again!