The weapon in the eye

A thriller inspired by one of the greatest bluffs in history, Eye Gun takes us to WWII England. MI5, the UK's internal security and counter-espionage service, taken by surprise in 1939, turned into a formidable machine to track down III's spies.e Reich. This mastery of intelligence paved the way for an incredible enterprise of intoxication: Operation "Fortitude".

Summary of the plot

1944. The Germans expect a landing. But where ? The Allies have built a formidable base on the coast, north of London, where, between endless rows of barracks, tanks, planes, cannons are piled up - all in painted canvas stretched over wood, or in cardboard paste. This is to make Hitler believe that the landing will take place in Pas-de-Calais and not in Normandy. The deception seems to take hold. But when an enemy agent finds out the truth, and so ... His code name is Die Nadel (The Needle) because his favorite weapon is the stylus. And he risks discovering the secret that can make the whole operation fail ...

The historical context

What is above all the strength of the Eye of the Needle ("Eye of the Needle" in its original title) is of course the context chosen by the author: the preparation of the Allied landing in Normandy. This operation, which brought together the largest armada of all time, was the scene of long, meticulous preparation. Even more, it was the opportunity for the Allied General Staff to put together an incredible plan, worthy of the greatest Hollywood scenarios, a scheme bordering on a farce ... and which nevertheless was an undeniable success.

This plan saved the allies precious weeks in the Battle of Normandy and thus enabled them to settle permanently on French soil (and even to liberate Paris without meeting the main body of the enemy troops), the Germans continuing to keep at the expense of imposing forces (the 15th Army) to face a supposed invasion by the Pas-de-Calais, and this until the end of August 1944. Everyone has in mind the pictures showing the thousands of tanks and other cardboard planes, commanded by - excuse the little - General Patton, and whose orders were flowing through all the South-East of England ... but which were only captured by the German submarines which, failing to still control the seas, in were reduced to spying on Allied signals and serving as a luxury taxi for homesick spies.

The operation was not, however, just a simple movie set, since the British IVth Army was wisely in Scotland, plump this one, but just as talkative on the airwaves as its American cousin and whose objective was to make believe in an invasion of Norway. Finally, the plan's need for plausibility drove the allies to the point of razing the Pas-de-Calais village map, sacrificing hundreds of civilians under the fire of the diversionary bombardments preceding the attack of June 6, 1944.

The novel

If the general setting of the book is Operation "Fortitude", the plot focuses mainly on the preservation of its secret in a storyline that skilfully mixes the best ingredients of a good thriller and the distillation of well-documented historical facts and intended to give maximum realism to the whole. If the novel were a movie (see below), we would say the script holds up well and the directing is brilliant.

Lots of rhythm, action, a hint of romanticism, a formidably intelligent spy coupled with a cold and cinematic killer at will, the main plot is well made, the atmosphere black at will, violent at times. The author describes with accuracy and efficiency a bloody and merciless hunt, distils the subtle strings of the "profession" of secret agent and the sacrifice it requires from its best elements - self-denial -, all in a truly breathless suspense.

At the heart of this chase, a sleuth hired by British intelligence, a long-powerless spectator of the drama that is being built, and a young broken couple, exiled on a small island off the coast of Scotland, and whose fate will inexorably collide that of the gifted spy.

Finally, the only small downside could come from the scenes located at the Führer's HQ, which naively written or perhaps simply awkwardly translated, have difficulty in taking shape with the whole and give the impression of wanting to support a little too crudely the historical frame when she did not need it.

But whether you are passionate about history or simply a fan of well-crafted detective novels, l'Arme à l'œil has all the arguments to make you have a great time and, why not, to make you want to redo the scene a bit. history by imagining the turn of events if the allies had not succeeded in their incredible tour de force ...


The Weapon in the Eye was adapted for the cinema in 1981 by Richard Marquand (Return of the Jedi), with Donald Sutherland as the spy Faber.

Summary sheet

  • Author: Ken Follett
  • Type: Novel
  • Collection: Paperback
  • 382 pages
  • Publisher: LGF - Livre de Poche (May 1, 1981)
  • Public price: 6 €

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