1963. An anonymous Englishman is hired by the Operations Chief of French terrorist organisation O.A.S. to murder the French president, General Charles de Gaulle. A failed attempt in the previous year means the target will be nearly impossible to reach.
Only one man could do the job: an assassin of legendary talent known only as The Jackal.
This remorseless and deadly killer must be stopped. But he is a man without a name, without an identity; a lethal spectre. How can you stop an assassin nobody can identify? The task falls to the best detective in France - and the price of failure is unthinkable.
Forsyth allegedly wrote this novel in 35 days. I guess that is due to his journalistic training and always having to submit your copy before a deadline. Nobody can predict if a book is going to be a bestseller, let alone still be in print fifty years down the road, but it certainly was a gamechanger as Lee Child says in his intro to this book.
Forsyth is one of those authors who is a huge signpost in a massive field of writers and a writer many readers are cognisant of from early on. Forsyth is quite spare with his dialogue. With his plethora of knowledge, his books can read like an instruction manual for espionage. Maybe this book should have been called 'How To Be A Contract Killer'! It is quite worrying that he seems to know so much. I can't think of a more dangerous genre to research as some of the people Forsyth must have met on his travels must have been dodgy to say the least, in fact, downright dangerous!
Obviously, technology has evolved in leaps and bounds over the past fifty years, so you have to see this as a piece of history. However, despite that, the process Forsyth takes you through with false passports and the obtaining of firearms is quite eye-opening. You need to have a certain mindset to plan an assassination as shown by The Jackal. It may be just me, but as with the shadowy Jackal, there are similarities of him to Highsmith's Ripley. Not just because of what he does, but the way Forsyth makes you actually root for the person who is in effect the bad guy! It is a mark of a writer of huge creative powers who can make a reader feel that way. Forsyth and Highsmith have nailed this in spades! 'The Day of the Jackal' is one of those books that stands head and shoulders above the rest as one of the most important books from the twentieth century that any lover of this genre should read.