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In the bleakest years of WWII, when it appeared that nothing could slow the German army, Hitler set his sights on the Mediterranean island of Crete, the ideal staging ground for German domination of the Middle East. But German command had not counted on the eccentric band of British intelligence officers who would stand in their way, conducting audacious sabotage operations in the very shadow of the Nazi occupation force.
The Ariadne Objective tells the remarkable story of the secret war on Crete from the perspective of these amateur soldiers – scholars, archaeologists, writers – who found themselves serving as spies in Crete because, as one of them put it, they had made “the obsolete choice of Greek at school”: John Pendlebury, a swashbuckling archaeologist with a glass eye and a swordstick, who had been legendary archeologist Arthur Evans's assistant at Knossos before the war; Patrick Leigh Fermor, a Byronic figure and future travel-writing luminary who, as a teenager in the early 1930s, walked across Europe, a continent already beginning to feel the effects of Hitler's rise to power; Xan Fielding, a writer who would later produce the English translations of books like Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes; and Sandy Rendel, a future Times of London reporter, who prided himself on a disguise that left him looking more ragged and fierce than the Cretan mountaineers he fought alongside.
Infiltrated into occupied Crete, these British gentleman spies teamed with Cretan partisans to carry out a cunning plan to disrupt Nazi maneuvers, culminating in a daring, high-risk plot to abduct the island’s German commander. In this untold story of World War II, Wes Davis offers a portrait of a group of legends in the making, against the backdrop of one of the war’s most exotic locales.
“An exciting, tense narrative that unfolds like an espionage novel.”–Booklist
"History both crucial and swashbuckling." –Library Journal
"An exciting, earnestly narrated World War II story."–Kirkus Reviews
“Wes Davis's brilliant chronicle of the battle for German-occupied Crete is doubly rich in its description of character and of the perilous varieties of combat. This story tells how classically literate and well nigh fearless Britons allied with brigandish locals to confound, confuse and finally defeat the Nazi occupiers.” –Robert Stone, author of Dog Soldiers
“Meticulously researched and gracefully narrated. The Ariadne Objective shows close-up the final gaudy flowering of the imperial swashbucklers—indifferent to discomfort, fluent in many languages, reckless, eccentrically decadent mischief-makers, never unintentionally ill-mannered—who made their home in the world, before George Smiley took over his grudging service to the Empire.” –Geoffrey Wolff, author of A Day at the Beach
"In the grand tradition of John LeCarre, Wes Davis has created a thrilling tale of espionage in the face of great peril. This is gripping history, masterfully told." –McKay Jenkins, author of The Last Ridge
“The Ariadne Objective is a ripping yarn, and Wes Davis is the perfect person to spin it. Ariadne will appeal to fans of Ben Macintyre's books like Double Cross and Operation Mincemeat and, in fact, to anyone who enjoys a good story well told. This book kept me up well past my bedtime: I couldn't go to sleep until I finished it.” –Ben Yagoda, author of About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made and How to Not Write Bad