The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth is a thriller released in 1971 and it captured the hearts of many. The suspense, the storytelling and the detail of the hunt made it an international success.
The book was based on an actual assassin attempt on the President of France in 1962 but the events in the story are fictional. The Jackal went on to win the 1972 Best Novel Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. It is a well written book that pulls the reader in even though the plot is told to us in the first few pages. Not many people can get away with that but Forsyth uses it to his advantage and has us wondering what will happen even though we already know.
The Day of the Jackal: Summary
France is in the middle of a war with the OAS, a military organization that mutiny’s against France and want to kill the President because they believe he is a traitor to his nation. A failed attempt to kill the president by OAS leads the secret police of France to to crackdown on OAS. That forces them to hide and take drastic measures.
As the head of OAS is captured and bases are discovered and raided by the secret police, OAS finds itself with a new leader. And he decides to hire an assassin outside of France to assassinate the president since the secret police has infiltrated them. That decision leads to one of the best novels of the century.
What I loved about this novel is the suspense it builds up to the ending. You are invested in this assassin’s carefully plotted mission and want to find out what happens next. It takes you on a wild journey all over France and towards the president. And that is after the fact that the author tells us the assassination attempt fails within the first few pages!
What stands out to me is how great the writing was for this novel and how it has stood the test of time. It is still read today by many people and that is how you know a book is great. Jaws, which was released in the same decade, was made into the biggest blockbuster movie of its time but the novel has not left the same mark. You can tell how different the writing is. Both books came out in 1970’s but only one is remembered for being a great novel.