This was the first Frederik Forsyth for me and I was very excited to get my hands on a first edition copy of the book from a second hand sale. Even found a small souvenir inside from the last owner of the book maybe – a sticker with English Cox and the British flag printed on it. A quick Google search told me this was a brand of apples in the UK! Funny connection. Almost like a clue to suit the novel’s genre.
Took me exactly a month to finish as the initial 100 pages were so detailed and had so many dimensions and names and secret service manoeuvres across the MI5, MI6 and KGB that I lost track and interest too. There were some very interesting facts in there too, with Kim Philby as a key character, who I discovered was an actual double agent and defector to USSR, and also a certain section where Forsyth mentions Ian Fleming and how he modified some terms from the real MI6. But I read nearly 70% of the book in the last 3 days and the story picked up quite well. I enjoyed it after all.
A movie was made soon after the book’s release and its runaway success, starring Michael Caine and a young Pierce Brosnan. But take my advice and don’t watch it. It completely ruins the book, makes several plot changes and over simplifies the whole operation that is actually very very complex and much more interesting than what the film shows. I was surprised that Forsyth being one of the producers of the film allowed that to happen. The one thing that stood out in the book was the absence of any key characters that were women. But the movie takes care of this aspect more than willingly in more than one instance that adds nothing to add to the plot but only reminds us, that well, this is Hollywood.