Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal was definitely a pleasant surprise. Being classified as a thriller/ spy novel I was not intrigued to read it, as I generally prefer books which focus on character depth rather than a gripping plot. But never the less I gave it a try, and I am so glad I did.
Forsyth, originally a journalist by trade, was working in Paris during the 1960s. At that time President Charles de Gaulle had just granted independence to Algeria, provoking the wrath of the ultra right terrorist group, the Organisation Armée Secrète (OAS), causing them to attempt various assassinations on his life. A few years later Forsyth was back in London and without work. This led him to try writing a novel and to use his investigative skills to bring an extra level of reality to his writing. Which it most certainly did.
Did It Happen?
The story is set in 1963 after the last known attempted assassination on de Gaulle. It follows the OAS as they hire an independent assassin (the Jackal) to complete the task of assassinating de Gaulle for them. The story is broken up into three parts. In the first part we follow the Jackal as he plans and plots the assassination of de Gaulle. In the second part the french officials discover that the OAS have hired someone to assassinate de Gaulle and they appoint Commissaire Claude Label to find him. We then follow the Commissaire as he tries to hunt down the man who is trying to kill his president. The final part is a neck and neck chase of the Commissaire and the Jackal as each tries to complete his task before the other.
The plot is so well set in his history that you cannot help but wonder the whole way through the book whether or not it actually happened.
Being a thriller with multiple characters to follow I did not expect much with regard to character depth and development. But I was wrong. The two main characters are very well developed throughout book. As you follow the Jackal you cannot help get into his head and you find yourself hoping for the successful assassination of de Gaulle without even realising it.
Later as you get to know the Commissaire you begin to start rooting for him. All in all you get a strong sense of who these characters are as their actions begin to clearly define them.
The only negative remark I can give is that I found the actions scenes to be overly complicated, long-winded and tiring to follow at some points.
In conclusion I would definitely recommend this book, especially to those who enjoy thrillers, but also to those who don’t. It is an incredibly believable historical novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat.