It's November 1944, and Willi Graf, a German rocket engineer, is launching Nazi Germany's V2 rockets at London from Occupied Holland. Kay Connolly, once an actress, now a young English Intelligence officer, ships out for Belgium to locate the launch sites and neutralize the threat. When rumors of a defector circulate through the German ranks, Graf becomes a suspect, and Graf and Connolly find themselves on opposite sides in the hunt for the saboteur.
As so often with Harris, the joy is in the history as much as the story. There are two conspiracies in this book but...it is only when you reach the end that you realise that the author’s narrative skills have tricked you into focusing on the sideshow ... more drama than thriller. For all its pace—you will zip through it in no time—the rewards are in the meta-story. But Harris’s deceptively effortless prose means you barely notice. The effect is one of total immersion: you can feel the cold, taste the bacon sandwiches and imagine the trolleys squeaking across the floor.
Robert Harris masterfully presents well researched history, with some relevant high-tech gobbledegook, imaginatively embellished with the colourful quirks of human behaviour. V2 depicts British and German antagonists with remarkable objectivity, relieved by hints of conflicting sympathies. Readers in 40 languages will be both educated and entertained.
With its tense plot and familiar characters, some readers may anticipate the novel’s own parabolic curve. But this means it offers the satisfactions we expect. Spies and informers lurk. Period details are piquant, but not overdone ... Technical sections about the rockets, though occasionally droning, are astonishingly precise. Above all there’s suspense. As Graf and Kay plot and counterplot, questions rise and fall like rockets ... V2 will keep you pinned on a compelling trajectory.