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The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete from the Nazis [Kindle Edition]

Wes Davis
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $26.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

The incredible true story of the World War II spies, including Patrick Leigh Fermor and John Pendlebury, who fought to save Crete and block Hitler's march to the East.

In the bleakest years of World War II, 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”: Patrick Leigh Fermor, a Byronic figure and future travel-writing luminary who as a teenager had walked across Europe in the midst of Hitler's rise to power; 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;  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 thrilling untold story of World War II, Wes Davis offers a brilliant portrait of a group of legends in the making, against the backdrop of one of the war’s most exotic locales.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The Nazi invasion of Crete in 1941, spearheaded by an innovative airborne assault, was rapid, efficient, and brutal; the subsequent Cretan resistance was prolonged, vicious, and successful in that it tied down large numbers of German troops. The brunt of the resistance fighting fell upon Cretan partisans and civilians, many of whom were massacred in Nazi reprisal raids. Also playing an important role was a group of amateur British adventurers, including classical scholars, archaeologists, and writers motivated by streaks of romanticism. They were led by Patrick Leigh Fermor, who had wandered extensively across the eastern Mediterranean as a teenager. Aided by their ability to speak Greek, they holed up in the mountains, gathered intelligence for the partisans, and joined them in guerilla raids. Eventually, they engineered an audacious and successful plot to kidnap a German general. Davis, a writer and professor who took part in excavations on Crete, recounts the activities of these men in an exciting, tense narrative that unfolds like an espionage novel. --Jay Freeman


"Wes Davis' fast-paced tale of wartime sabotage reads more like an Ian Fleming thriller than a mere retelling of events."Wall Street Journal

"Pendlebury and Fermor are just two of the extraordinary characters in Wes Davis' The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete From the Nazis…Many of the heroes in Davis' book are so literary that they merit a seemingly oxymoronic designation: swashbuckling men of letters…Drawing on letters, diaries, and long reports to headquarters, he reconstructs their escapades and espionage with incredible, novelistic detail. The story unfolds with the rich characterization and perfectly calibrated suspense of a great novel. It can be hard at points to remember the book is actually a work of nonfiction." Christian Science Monitor

“Exciting stuff, to be sure, but what really sets the book apart from the host of look-alikes is Davis’s dedication to fleshing out the eccentricity of the main players…. It is surely is a good thing that we no longer associate war with adventure; if it were always as appealing as Davis has made it here, we would grow to love it too much.”The Daily Beast

"Fascinating." New York Post

“Already thrilling in premise, Davis's execution of this previously untold war story is spot on especially when he colors in history with intricate descriptions of the exotic locale.”Publishers Weekly

“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

Product Details

  • File Size: 4664 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (November 12, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #453,788 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read about a little known part of the war October 9, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
All too often of late books written about war tend to be too dry and scholarly, informational but not something you want to read. Then we come to Wes Davis' book on British spies leading anti-German resistance on Crete in WW2. A book that is not only informative but just darn fun to read.

Although we think of British spies as suave, debonair James Bond types, the truth was that at the start of the war a great many British agents were pleasantly loopy who viewed the whole business as a bit of a lark, playing wizard japes on the enemy. In the mainland of Europe this did not last long but in the Greek islands, where the people had long had a soft spot for the British who had helped free them from the Turks, such eccentric characters as a one eyed archeologist or a footloose artist who tried to have his occupation in his pass port listed as `bum' fit in well with the locals. What they were doing was deadly serious and mistakes would be fatal, but they still approached it with the joie de vivre of a great adventure.

More than anything, the eccentric personalities of these men, is what roars from the pages of Davis' work. Written in a style that makes it seem more like a wonderful story than a book on history it is the sort of thing to encourage people to read and learn. The principal characters seem like someone you'd like to just sit down in a nice chair by the fire and ask these men to tell of their adventures.

In the end Davis has taken a part of the war little remarked on in the west and made it interesting and even, dare I say, fun, at least to read about. It makes me want to take a deeper look at that part of the world and THAT is the sigh of a great book-one that fires your thirst to learn more.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Military History, Clearly Written October 6, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
World War II 'Partisan' literature is by no means 'thin on the ground.' 'Ill Met By Moonlight', authored by W. Stanley Moss and still available on Amazon, also does a fine job of covering some of this ground: the swashbuckling abduction of the German commanding general on Crete, General Kreipe and his exfiltration to Cairo and internment abroad. Moss was an actual participant in these events, as was Patrick Leigh Fermor. I have read his book.

Wes Davis offers an equally fine version; one with a wider scope of clandestine and partisan operations leading to the Liberation of Crete. Where the Moss book is based primarily on the author's personal diaries, the Davis book relies more on operational reports filed at the time. Davis uses a crisp writing style and 'telling details' to bring events back to life and to put them into a modern (retrospective) historical setting. Clandestine operations depend largely on the physical and intellectual abilities of the participants and we get a decent sense of the 'men on the ground' from Davis' reconstruction of events. Those events range from horrifying sacrifice to thrilling and successful risk-taking so the book also works as an exciting read of 'daring deeds.' The results of 'reprisal' raids lead readers to 'second guess' or to imagine how they might have decided to handle things if they knew that whole communities would have their lives as stake. Of course, it is equally true that a war of occupation puts lots of things on the line.

Davis' work has additional interest for special ops fans if we consider how these 'behind the lines' actions would work today--in a world of advanced surveillance technology, including satellite images and drone over flights.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting, comprehensive history. Wonderfully readable. January 18, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm not much of a military history reader. My field is women's history which I have taught. I need my military history more fleshed out than dates, battles and weaponry. This book achieves so much more for me as a reader. It tells the story of the people, their times and the dynamics leading up to the liberating military objectives on Crete during WWII. Focusing on Fermor, a British commander, the book details in engaging style the facts of the war and the joint efforts of Greece and the troops to free Crete from the Nazis.

This book reads far more like a memoir than a traditional military history work; you would be hard pressed to even find a date in most chapters. I found it riveting. I ended up knowing not only about an aspect of the war than I had not known but also about the lives of those who fought. This book was a fast read and the writing style is effortless and enjoyable. I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to read this and highly recommend it to others.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"The Ariadne Objective" is a well-researched, well-written book that highlights a little-known corner of World War II in the Mediterranean Theater - the undercover, behind-the scenes work of British operatives on the island of Crete, working with local partisans to undermine the Nazi presence on the island. The cast of characters includes some typically eccentric personalities (typical for this kind of work, that is...) ranging from former archaeologists to world-traveling young men of no certain profession prior to entering the military. Their life on the island was dangerous and difficult, requiring them to balance the military objectives of the Allies against the political agendas of the various local factions, all of whom were jostling for a better share of the munitions and supplies which were provided by the Allied military, and better political position for the end of the war.

I came to the conclusion of this book with a deep appreciation of the difficulty of the work these men pursued, but also with a question: What was actually accomplished by their efforts? Reprisals against the civilian population by the Nazis were swiftly and harshly pursued in the wake of any significant acts of sabotage or attacks against German military installations or personnel, such that positive action against the enemy was largely curtailed, and their mission appeared to be largely one of intelligence-gathering.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Much huffing and puffing over a very minor chapter in ...
Much huffing and puffing over a very minor chapter in WWII. Interesting characters, but the story reflects Britain's obsession with military "stunts" that in the end... Read more
Published 3 months ago by D. Gantenbein
3.0 out of 5 stars This Book is Worth the Read!
Interesting factual account of the German invasion of Crete during WW II! Not especially well written.
Published 5 months ago by El Lobo
3.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading...
Fascinating tale of a war operation I had never heard of, in an area, Crete, usually not covered much by historians. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jacqueline Angelone
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read - a Page Turner!
This was a great history of Crete so much so that I felt I was on the Isle although I have never traveled to Greece. I loved the characters and suspense. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Lola Kelchner
4.0 out of 5 stars It gave me new insight on the collaboration of the ...
It gave me new insight on the collaboration of the greeks and the British in freeing the island. Also, it highlighted the courage of the Greeks and their attitude towards their... Read more
Published 8 months ago by mask
3.0 out of 5 stars British Support of Crete during WWII
Wow, this book took me A LONG TIME to finish. I have always been interested in reading history, but this was probably one of the driest accounts I've ever read. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jessie
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsurpassed summer vacation reading
This book is fun to read, easy to believe and a spell-binding tale of heroism of epic proportions. Factually I learned the British soldiers like to party in ways we can only... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Charles A. Krohn
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
I've read several accounts of this episode, but this was the best. The details made it real. Not everybody was a hero. Partisans were brave, but flawed. Read more
Published 9 months ago by democrat
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read about a neglected part of WWII
The Ariadne Objective was one of my best reads from 2013. I enjoyed the story of the operation, but let's face it.... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Fred
5.0 out of 5 stars Story about a less known part of the war
Easy read with a map to help keep up with the movements of the story line. Little known part of the war.
Published 10 months ago by CHARLES LAMB
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