The Key to Rebecca

Written by Ken Follett
Review by Melissa Galyon

Originally published more than twenty years ago, The Key to Rebecca is one of Ken Follett’s most famous espionage novels. In the midst of World War II in Cairo, Alex Wolff (codename: Sphinx) returns to his homeland to do a little work for the Nazis. Britain had primary control over the city during this time, and Wolff’s job was to help eject Britain and insert Germany. Wolff, however, didn’t know there’d be two serious opponents in Major William Vandam and Elene Fontana.

Wolff doesn’t do a great job of keeping hidden in town; in fact, he runs into two British soldiers immediately upon entering Cairo. After that, he’s immediately thrown into a game of hide and seek, with plans to submit messages in code to Rommel every night at midnight. He stays with a famous belly dancer, Sonja, on her houseboat and entertains himself with her fantasies to keep him busy for the rest of the time. Vandam and Elene work together to stop Wolff before it’s too late for the British, but Wolff has one more card to play.

This novel was absolutely riveting. Having just read another World War II spy novel, Robert Wilson’s The Company of Strangers, I was tuned into the time and the intensity of the period. I cheered for Vandam and booed Wolff, as expected, and hoped that good would triumph over evil in the end. I can’t wait to read more of Follett’s work.