Monday, February 13, 2012

Hooked From the Start, Part Four: The Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett

Continuing my series on the first lines of some of my favorite novels, this month I concentrate on The Eye of the Needle. I loved this book and the movie. It was the first Ken Follett novel that I read many years ago and remains my favorite out of all his books.

The first lines:

"It was the coldest winter for forty-five years. Villages in the English countryside were cut off by the snow and the Thames froze over. One day in January the Glasgow-London train arrived at Euston twenty-four hours late."

it has been such a long time since I read the book (first published in 1978 as Storm Island) that I cannot remember what drew me to it. I doubt however that the first lines had anything to do with it. More than likely it was the genre: a WWII spy thriller.

But today as I read the above lines, I shiver as I read them and I wonder what I thought the first time, perhaps expecting something dire to happen during that cold winter. Dire things do happen as a German spy kills people with a stiletto (hence his name "The Needle") and is then sent to Aberdeen, Scotland where he sets out on a small trawler to meet a U-boat but he is not used to the open sea and becomes shipwrecked on an island called Storm Island, The island is inhabited by a young married couple. The husband lost his legs in a car crash and his young beautiful wife tires of him and their loveless marriage. And then enters an exciting but unknowingly murderous German spy.

No, those first lines did not entice me but they provided an icy terror as I read about the young wife and the attraction she felt for the German spy.

And this leads me to the topic of the next article in this series: From another of my all-time favorite authors, Elmore Leonard: "Never open a book with weather."

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