A to Z Challenge: K is for “The Key to Rebecca”

KAfter two rather obscure titles from Poland, my today’s A to Z Challenge is going to back to the safe waters of books in English, though I steer away from the speculative fiction, and will be writing about a book from another genre.

Before I dived into the depths or fantasy and science-fiction, when I’ve already ran out of adventure books to read (my library had a great selection… but I had a great amount of time and was always a fast reader), I started poking around my parents’ library. My mom already recommended some books to me, like the Count of Monte Christo, so I felt confident I’d find another great read on her bookshelf. This is how I came across thrillers.

I’m not sure if Ken Follet’s “The Key to Rebecca” was the first one I’ve read, but it definitely sparked my interest. I’ve been already watching some great war movies, “Dirty Dozen” and “The Great Escape” among them, so I felt interested in that period of time.

First Polish edition (1989) of "The Key to Rebecca". The very one I've read.
First Polish edition (1989) of “The Key to Rebecca”. The very one I’ve read.

The war in Africa in 1942, Egypt besieged by the Axis forces, and a mysterious spy who passes the Alliance’s secrets to the enemy, sounded more than enticing, and I jumped right into the story. Of course, some of the themes might have been a bit too mature for a ten or a twelve year old girl I’ve been back then, but I absorbed what I understood from the book and tossed the rest into a corner of my mind. All that really counted back then was following the plot and biting my nails when I accompanied the main character in his attempts to catch the spy and break the code used to send the information behind the enemy lines.

I can’t recall much of the author’s style (that might have been muddled by the translation anyway), and I can’t say much about the setting and how thorough the research was, but back then, for a Polish girl with little knowledge of history, the setting was plausible enough.

Later I’ve read a lot of other thrillers and action books, mostly by Ken Follet and Alistair McLean (for some reason, I never got into Robert Ludlum’s book, even though he was popular in Poland), and even though I’ve found my favorite genre, I still have a bit of sentiment toward the thrillers I’ve read in the past.

After all, who doesn’t like a good story in which a good guy catches an evil spy and turns the tides of World War II?

What about you? Do you often read outside your genres? Or maybe you don’t have a favorite genre and you read everything that seems good, no matter what genre it is?

Joanna Maciejewska

Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games. Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English. Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. sjhigbee

    Yes… this year has been something of an exception. I don’t think I’ve read more than a couple of ‘straight’ books – whereas normally I slip in at least a couple of non-spec fic books a month. However, I’m reading very intensively right now – as I’m in the throes of editing and cannot write, reading is helping me get through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms. I was also a huge Alistair McLean fan, as well as Frederick Forsyth and John le Carre – were you ever into ‘Smiley’s People’?

    1. melfka

      “Golden Gate” was the first one by McLean I’ve read, and then I had to read everything published in Polish. 🙂
      I don’t think I know John le Carre and “Smiley’s People”. I’d love to check it out, but my TBR list is already so long… (and I won’t point toward certain Sarah’s blog with reviews that is partially guilty of making my TBR list longer 😉 )

  2. Philipa (Ozzypip)

    Interesting question. Yes I read across genres…. I like fantasy, sci fi, romance, mystery….at different times I like different types of books. TV wise I like detective stories (British ones in particular) books I like fantasy better…. All the best with the rest of the AtoZchallenge

    1. melfka

      Thank you for stopping by! 🙂 I see you have a wide range of genres to pick from, your TBR list is probably never short of titles. 🙂

  3. Michael

    Love Alistair McLean; grew up reading him. If you like thrillers (although they are not “war” stories), Dick Francis is awesome. I love his style. It helps if you like horses, too, since all of his books are written around them in some way, shape or form.

    I remember loving “The Key to Rebecca” and a big part of that was because I had read Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic classic “Rebecca” beforehand. That kind of felt like I was in on the secret. I still get a little thrill each time I read, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

    1. melfka

      Thanks for stopping by, Michael!
      I’ve read some thrillers in the past, and probably wouldn’t cringe reading them again, but my love is speculative fiction, so thrillers always fall at the bottom of the list. But I’ll keep your recommendation in mind for the time when I feel like I need to read something different than magic and spaceships. 🙂

      1. Michael

        Understood. Francis’ style is British, and his protagonists are always quite self-deprecating, and although they have typically been successful also have some deep flaw that has drawn them away from the top of the sport they love. On reflection, his novels are more mystery than thriller, although there are some elements of the thriller genre woven into them. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with magic and spaceships – that’s where I hang out most of the time, myself. 🙂

        1. melfka

          I like mysteries too…
          I guess the problem is: I wish I could read ALL the books I want to read.
          But for now… Make space on that spaceship, I’m coming over! 😉

          1. Michael

            I’ll see if I can find Scotty and fire up the transporter 🙂

  4. portiabridget

    I often read outside my literary comfort zone and I rarely shun books just because they are different than my ordinary fare. Yes, I read The Key to Rebecca as well and many other similar thrillers set during WWII even though it is not my fav genre.

  5. Debs Carey

    I read a lot of thrillers growing up – also from my parents’ bookcases – but never came across Ken Follet (must be our age differene), although I believe I read pretty much everything Alistair McLean wrote. Agree with the recommendation of Dick Francis, although I did grow up around race horses which may have something to do with it!

    As for varying genres, I’ve been reading across them a great deal recently – either as a result of differing preferences of others in my book club, or the recommendations of the Mumsnet 50 books discussions – and I’ve been really enjoying being taken out of my comfort zone.

    Debs Carey

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