The Day of the Jackal

The Day of the Jackal

by Frederick Forsyth

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The Day of the Jackal makes such comparable books such as The Manchurian Candidate and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold seem like Hardy Boy mysteries.”—The New York Times 

The Jackal. A tall, blond Englishman with  opaque, gray eyes. A killer at the top of his  profession. A man unknown to any secret service in the  world. An assassin with a contract to kill the  world's most heavily guarded man.

One  man with a rifle who can change the course of  history. One man whose mission is so secretive not  even his employers know his name. And as the  minutes count down to the final act of execution, it  seems that there is no power on earth that can stop  the Jackal.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525535867
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/29/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 302,725
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Frederick Forsyth is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of seventeen novels, including The Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File, as well as short story collections and a memoir. A former Air Force pilot, and one-time print and television reporter for the BBC, he has had four movies and two television miniseries made from his works. He is the winner of three Edgar Awards, and in 2012 he won the Diamond Dagger Award from the Crime Writers' Association, a lifetime achievement award for sustained excellence. He lives in Hertfordshire, England.

Read an Excerpt


It is cold at 6:40 in the morning of a March day in Paris, and seems even colder when a man is about to be executed by firing squad. At that hour on March 11, 1963, in the main courtyard of the Fort d’Ivry a French Air Force colonel stood before a stake driven into the chilly gravel as his hands were bound behind the post, and stared with slowly diminishing disbelief at the squad of soldiers facing him twenty metres away.      A foot scuffed the grit, a tiny release from tension, as the blindfold was wrapped around the eyes of Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry, age thirty-five, blotting out the light for the last time. The mumbling of the priest was a helpless counterpoint to the crackling of twenty rifle bolts as the soldiers charged and cocked their carbines.      Beyond the walls a Berliet truck blared for passage as some smaller vehicle crossed its path towards the centre of the city; the sound died away, masking the “Take your aim” order from the officer in charge of the squad. The crash of rifle fire, when it came, caused no ripple on the surface of the waking city, other than to send a flutter of pigeons skyward for a few moments. The single “whack” seconds later of the coup de grâce was lost in the rising din of traffic from beyond the walls.      The death of the officer, leader of a gang of Secret Army Organisation killers who had sought to shoot the President of France, was to have been an end—an end to further attempts on the President’s life. By a quirk of fate it marked a beginning, and to explain why, it is first necessary to explain why a riddled body came to hang from its ropes in the courtyard of the military prison outside Paris on that March morning. . . .      The sun had dropped at last behind the palace wall, and long shadows rippled across the courtyard bringing a welcome relief. Even at 7 in the evening of the hottest day of the year the temperature was still twenty-five degrees centigrade. Across the sweltering city the Parisians piled querulous wives and yelling children into cars and trains to leave for the weekend in the country. It was August 22, 1962, the day a few men waiting beyond the city boundaries had decided that the President, General Charles de Gaulle, should die.      While the city’s population prepared to flee the heat for the relative cool of the rivers and beaches, the cabinet meeting behind the ornate façade of the Elysée Palace continued. Across the tan gravel of the front courtyard, now cooling in welcome shadow, sixteen black Citroen DS sedans were drawn up nose to tail, forming a circle round three-quarters of the area.      The drivers, lurking in the deepest shade close to the west wall where the shadows had arrived first, exchanged the inconsequential banter of those who spend most of their working days waiting on their masters’ whims.      There was more desultory grumbling at the unusual length of the Cabinet’s deliberations, until a moment before 7:30 a chained and bemedalled usher appeared behind the plate glass doors at the top of the six steps of the palace and gestured towards the guards. Among the drivers, half-smoked Gauloises were dropped and ground into the gravel. The security men and guards stiffened in their boxes beside the front gate and the massive iron grilles were swung open.      The chauffeurs were at the wheels of their limousines when the first group of ministers appeared behind the plate glass. The usher opened the doors and the members of the Cabinet straggled down the steps exchanging a few last-minute wishes for a restful weekend. In order of precedence the sedans eased up to the base of the steps, the usher opened the rear door with a bow, the Ministers climbed into their respective cars and were driven away past the salutes of the Garde Républicaine and out into Faubourg Saint Honoré.      Within ten minutes they were gone. Two long black DS 19 Citroens remained in the yard, and each slowly cruised to the base of the steps. The first, flying the pennant of the President of the French Republic, was driven by François Marroux, a police driver from the training and headquarters camp of the Gendarmerie Nationale at Satory. His silent temperament had kept him apart from the joking of the ministerial drivers in the courtyard; his ice-cold nerves and ability to drive fast and safely kept him de Gaulle’s personal driver. Apart from Marroux, the car was empty. Behind it the second DS 19 was also driven by a gendarme from Satory.      At 7:45 another group appeared behind the glass doors, and again the men on the gravel stiffened to attention. Dressed in his habitual double-breasted charcoal grey suit and dark tie, Charles de Gaulle appeared behind the glass. With old-world courtesy he first ushered Madame Yvonne de Gaulle through the doors, then took her arm to guide her down the steps to the waiting Citroen. They parted at the car, and the President’s wife climbed into the rear seat of the front vehicle on the left-hand side. The General got in behind her from the right.      Their son-in-law, Colonel Alain de Boissieu, then chief-of-staff of the Armoured and Cavalry units of the French Army, checked that both rear doors were safely shut, then took his place in the front beside Marroux.      In the second car two others from the group of functionaries who had accompanied the presidential couple down the steps took their seats. Henri d’Jouder, the hulking bodyguard of the day, a Kabyle from Algeria, took the front seat beside the driver, eased the heavy revolver under his armpit, and slumped back. From then on his eyes would flicker incessantly, not over the car in front, but over the pavements and street corners as they flashed past. After a last word to one of the duty security men to be left behind, the second man got into the back alone. He was Commissaire Jean Ducret, chief of the Presidential Security Corps.      From beside the west wall two white-helmeted motorcyclists gunned their engines into life and rode slowly out of the shadows towards the gate. Before the entrance they stopped ten feet apart and glanced back. Marroux pulled the first Citroen away from the steps, swung towards the gate, and drew up behind the motorcycle outriders. The second car followed. It was 7:50 p.m.      Again the iron grille swung open, and the small cortege swept past the ramrod guards into the Faubourg Saint Honoré and from there into the Avenue de Marigny. From under the chestnut trees a young man in a white crash helmet astride a scooter watched the cortege pass, then slid away from the curb and followed. Traffic was normal for an August weekend, and no advance warning of the President’s departure had been given. Only the whine of the motorcycle sirens told traffic cops on duty of the approach of the convoy, and they had to wave and whistle frantically to get the traffic stopped in time.      The convoy picked up speed in the tree-darkened avenue and erupted into the sunlit Place Clemenceau, heading straight across towards the Pont Alexandre III. Riding in the slipstream of the official cars, the scooterist had little difficulty in following. After the bridge Marroux followed the motorcyclists into the Avenue General Gallieni and thence into the broad Boulevard des Invalides. The scooterist at this point had his answer—the route de Gaulle’s convoy would take out of Paris. At the junction of the Boulevard des Invalides and the rue de Varennes he eased back the screaming throttle and swerved towards a corner cafe. Inside, taking a small metal token from his pocket, he strode to the back of the cafe where the telephone was situated and placed a local call.      Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry waited in the suburb of Meudon. He was married, with three children, and he worked in the Air Ministry. Behind the conventional façade of his professional and family life, he nurtured a deep bitterness towards Charles de Gaulle, who, he believed, had betrayed France and the men who in 1958 had called him back to power by yielding Algeria to the Algerian nationalists.      He personally had lost nothing through the loss of Algeria, and it was not personal consideration that motivated him. In his own eyes he was a patriot, a man convinced that he would be serving his beloved country by slaying the man he thought had betrayed her. Many thousands shared his views at that time, but few in comparison were fanatical members of the Secret Army Organisations, which had sworn to kill de Gaulle and bring down his government. Bastien-Thiry was such a man.      He was sipping a beer when the call came through. The barman passed him the phone, then went to adjust the television set at the other end of the bar. Bastien-Thiry listened for a few seconds, muttered, “Very good, thank you,” into the mouthpiece, and set it down. His beer was already paid for. He strolled out of the bar onto the pavement, took a rolled newspaper from under his arm, and carefully unfolded it twice.      Across the street a young woman let drop the lace curtain of her first-floor flat, and, turning to the twelve men who lounged about the room, she said, “It’s route number two.” The five youngsters, amateurs at the business of killing, stopped twisting their hands and jumped up.      The other seven were older and less nervous. Senior among them in the assassination attempt and second-in-command to Bastien-Thiry was Lieutenant Alain Bougrenet de la Tocnaye, an extreme right-winger from a family of landed gentry. He was thirty-five, married, with two children.      The most dangerous man in the room was Georges Watin, aged thirty-nine, a bulky-shouldered, square-jowled OAS fanatic, originally an agricultural engineer from Algeria, who in two years had emerged again as one of the OAS’s most dangerous trigger-men. From an old leg-wound he was known as “the Limp.”      When the girl announced the news, the twelve men trooped downstairs via the back of the building to a side street where six vehicles, all stolen or hired, had been parked. The time was 7:55.      Bastien-Thiry had personally spent days preparing the site of the assassination, measuring angles of fire, speed and distance of the moving vehicles, and the degree of firepower necessary to stop them. The place he had chosen was a long straight road called the Avenue de la Libération, leading up to the main crossroads of Petit-Clamart. The plan was for the first group containing the marksmen with their rifles to open fire on the President’s car some two hundred yards before the crossroads. They would shelter behind an Estafette van parked by the roadside, beginning their fire at a very shallow angle to the oncoming vehicles.      By Bastien-Thiry’s calculations, 150 bullets should pass through the leading car by the time it came abreast of the van. With the presidential car brought to a stop, the second OAS group would sweep out of a side road to blast the security police vehicle at close range. Both groups would spend a few seconds finishing off the presidential party, then spring for the three getaway vehicles in another side street.      Bastien-Thiry himself, the thirteenth of the party, would be a lookout man. By 8:05 the groups were in position. A hundred yards on the Paris side of the ambush, Bastien-Thiry stood idly by a bus stop with his newspaper. Waving the newspaper would give the signal to Serge Bernier, leader of the first commando, who would be standing by the Estafette. He would pass the order to the gunmen spread-eagled in the grass at his feet. Bougrenet de la Tocnaye would drive the car to intercept the security police, with Watin the Limp beside him clutching a submachine gun.

As the safety catches flicked off beside the road at Petit-Clamart, General de Gaulle’s convoy cleared the heavier traffic of central Paris and reached the more open avenues of the suburbs. Here the speed increased to nearly sixty miles per hour.      As the road opened out, François Marroux flicked a glance at his watch, sensed the testy impatience of the old General behind him, and pushed the speed up even higher. The two motorcycle outriders dropped back to take up station at the rear of the convoy. De Gaulle never liked such ostentation sitting out in front and dispensed with them whenever he could. In this manner the convoy entered the Avenue de la Division Leclerc at Petit-Clamart. It was 8:17 p.m.      A mile up the road Bastien-Thiry was experiencing the effects of his big mistake. He would not learn of it until told by the police as he sat months later in Death Row. Investigating the timetable of his assassination, he had consulted a calendar to discover that dusk fell on August 22 at 8:35, seemingly plenty late enough even if de Gaulle was late on his usual schedule, as indeed he was. But the calendar the Air Force colonel had consulted related to 1961. On August 22, 1962, dusk fell at 8:10. Those twenty-five minutes were to change the history of France. At 8:18 Bastien-Thiry discerned the convoy hurtling down the Avenue de la Libération towards him at seventy miles per hour. Frantically he waved his newspaper.      Across the road and a hundred yards down, Bernier peered angrily through the gloom at the dim figure by the bus stop. “Has the colonel waved his paper yet?” he asked of no one in particular. The words were hardly out of his mouth when he saw the shark-nose of the President’s car flash past the bus stop and into vision. “Fire,” he screamed to the men at his feet. They opened up as the convoy came abreast of them, firing with a ninety-degree layoff at a moving target passing them at seventy miles per hour.      That the car took twelve bullets at all was a tribute to the killers’ marksmanship. Most of those hit the Citroen from behind. Two tires shredded under the fire, and although they were self-sealing tubes the sudden loss of pressure caused the speeding car to lurch and go into a front-wheel skid. That was when François Marroux saved de Gaulle’s life.      While the ace marksman, ex-legionnaire Varga, cut up the tires, the remainder emptied their magazines at the disappearing rear window. Several slugs passed through the bodywork, and one shattered the rear window, passing within a few inches of the presidential nose. In the front seat Colonel de Boissieu turned and roared, “Get down,” at his parents-in-law. Madame de Gaulle lowered her head towards her husband’s lap. The General gave vent to a frosty “What, again?” and turned to look out of the back window.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Forsyth is truly the world’s reigning master of suspense”—Los Angeles Times

“When it comes to espionage, international intrigue, and suspense, Frederick Forsyth is a master.” —The Washington Post Book World

The Day of the Jackal makes such comparable books such as The Manchurian Candidate and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold seem like Hardy Boy mysteries.”—The New York Times

“Inventive, organized, believable, and absolutely spellbinding…Suspense fiction at its very best and a cliffhanger par excellence.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“A masterpiece tour de force of crisp, sharp, suspenseful writing…It’s an awful cliché to say that ‘you won’t be able to put this book down,’ but cliché or not, it’s the truth.”—The Wall Street Journal

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The Day of the Jackal 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
Janus More than 1 year ago
If you have seen and enjoyed the old movie "The Day of the Jackal" then this book is essential to your library. While it is true that you will know basically what happens, the book flushes out the characters and procedures so much more than the movie had time to. There is a growing demographic of readers whom devour assassin-themed books, this book is kind of like the granddaddy for that genre. Pros: Fascinating, well-written, exciting and plain old fun. Cons: Assumes the reader knows some rather obscure information, slow starting and very long chapters. Overall: A must for fans of thrillers and assassin fiction alike. Rates up there with works by Trevanian and Ludlum.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'll agree with the other opinions here that it's a good story. But I almost didn't get to the good parts because it took sooo long to get going. If you're not familiar with French history, and don't know much about French in general (like how to pronounce it), all of the tedious backstory and names and places and events you get hit with in the beginning can really get in the way. For a lot of the first section 'Anatomy of a Plot' I was wondering if we would EVER get to the part that actually invovled the Jackal. Once it finally does get rolling though, it rolls along very well. And the twist at the end is definitely worth a good chuckle.
Guest More than 1 year ago
you know this book is not true charles de gaulle never was assassinated; it even says in the book that the plot is going to fail de gaulle died in 1968 or 1970, forsyth wrote the book in 73, he expects you to know that this book is not true in real life, over 30 assassination attempts were made on degaulle, so this makes it possible to be one of the thirty even though you know it's the jackal is going ot fail, it's how close the jackal gets to de gaulle and the time and effort the jackal puts into the plot that nakes it good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File are two of the greats of the 20th century. I reread these two every few years, thats how great they are.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A long time ago, in high school, I read Forsyth's novel The Odessa File, and I remember enjoying it thoroughly. I don't know why it took me almost 20 years to read his first novel, The Day of the Jackal, but I'm glad I finally got around to it. Set more than 40 years ago, The Day of the Jackal involves an assassination attempt by a professional contract killer on the French Premier Charles de Gaulle by renegade members of the French army who are furious at his decision to pull out of Algeria. I admit I am not fully familiar with European post-war history, but the plot hooked me just the same. The characters are especially well-crafted for a book of this sort, and the suspense builds throughout, even though we know that de Gaulle died from natural causes. I especially enjoyed the little twist at the end. I thought the plot took a little too long to get rolling, and obivously the material is somewhat dated now, but this remains a classic of the genre. Read this to see why Tom Clancy will never measure up.
jimmaclachlan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read it a couple of times in the past 30 years. It's a 'must read once' although I found it paled the second time. Definitely a thriller, so if you know the ending, it ruins a lot of the story for me. I think it was a better read back in the 70's when it came out, because the idea was pretty new. Now it's been reused by so many others that it doesn't have the same impact.
zzamboni on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my all-time favorite novel. I re-read it every 1-2 years, and it is always enjoyable and thrilling. The story of an intelligent, unstoppable assassin out to kill Charles de Gaulle, and the immense manhunt orchestrated by an equally brilliant detective. The story has me rooting for both sides alternatively, and every time I read it, I secretly wish that one of these times, the ending will have been rewritten to the other possible outcome.Two movies have been made based on this book: Fred Zinnemann's 1973 movie, which is very good and close to the book, and the 1997 version with Bruce Willis, which is not worth watching.
bookswamp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
CR 1971, this was one of the authors we read in my younger years - so when I found it at a flea market, I bought it - and found it kind of antique... so it will land on a flea market again, I guess.1995 edition.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked the way this book kept its secrets until it absolutely had to reveal them. We don't know who the jackal is...we don't know what the weapon made me want to keep reading, and I didn't guess any of it right. Perhaps relied on some far fetched/coincidental happenings in places, but all in all I'd recommend it.
debs4jc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This classic thriller still has the power to enthrall readers today--at least it enthralled me. The first chapter had me wondering, because there is some background on the French political situation of the time. But then I was all of a sudden immersed into the actions of a group of revolutionaries who are attempting to assassinate De Gaulle. From that point on the cat and mouse game between a police detective and the hired assassin out to get De Gaulle had me hooked. Forsyth lays out the meticulous planning of the assassin on one hand, counterbalanced by the efforts of the detective on the other. I highly recommend this book for fans of thrillers, especially if they books of espionage or that deal with political matters.
meggyweg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of the great classics in the suspense novel genre, and with good reason. I was stunned by it. This book made me want to go to the library right away and check out every Forsyth novel they had.You know at the beginning that the assassination plot failed -- it says so -- but that doesn't stop you from clinging to the edge of your seat as your follow The Jackal and those who are chasing him. He's the consummate killer, using money, sex, drugs and whatever other tools are at his disposal to get the job done. He was enthralling and I was rooting for him as well as for Lebel, the policeman chasing him. And the ending was as satisfying as I could have wished.
BooksForDinner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very good. I'm a LeCarre nut, so it's tough to give out 4s and 5s to other espionage writers, but this was a lot of fun. The detail of his preparing everything is of course what makes the book different and interesting.
shenoychandrika on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
GodAwesome Book!!! Saw the movie too but liked the book better!!
ACannon92 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing! So fast-paced and unpredictable. Plot twists and turns like a roller coaster. I feel like it started off kind of slow and it took a bit for me to get into it, but it accelerates to the end and the ending left me breathless.
mtrumbo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Went on a bit too long for my taste but I really enjoyed the scenes where the Jackal prepped and planned for the assasination.
fothpaul on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first thing I mention say about this book, is the extraordinary tension and excitement which kicks in about a third of the way through the book, as they begin to discover the plot and search out the Jackal. This keeps on going right until the very final pages of the novel, this is the only one I can remember where the suspense is so expertly maintained.The initial few chapters did not seem to be too promising and were bogged down somewhat by details of the French police system and the formation of the OAS terrorist organisation. Although it was good background information to the rest of the novel, I¿m not sure that it was strictly necessary. This is the only part of the book which I found a bit tedious and the part which kept me from giving it a full 5 stars.I found the character of the Jackal to be fascinating, and it reminded me somewhat of the main character from the film Drive, a man who seems quite pleasant and maybe a little shy, but then you realise that he¿s actually a cold blooded killer and not quite all he appears on the outside. I found myself quite liking his character and enjoying his quest, not wanting him to get caught. Then he started killing people because they would ruin his chances of success, and you remember that he is an assassin.The hunt for the Jackal, with the French and British police always one step behind the man they are searching for. The dual narrative style allows the story to flow quickly and the tension to remain at a high. Overall a really enjoyable and well constructed book. Without the initial tedium it would be 5 stars, but would it be the same book without this? Probably not, as it is the authors obsession with detail that makes this such a well constructed book.
nesum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Forsyth's famous manhunt is a wonderful example of what an espionage novel could be. It has a smart and well-thought out plot where Forsyth meticulously creates a plot to assassinate Charles de Gaul and then steps back and unravels it from the point of view of a French detective.It's only flaw is its pace and characters. Forsyth hurries through several scenes too quickly, and many of his characters have very little depth, including the Jackal, unfortunately.Still it is a masterful novel and a fun read.
reading_fox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of, if not the, best of Forsyth's work. Now dated, but still a gripping read. Terrorists (see its still relevant all these years later) plan to assassinate Charles de Gaule, and decide to hire in an unknown marksman "the jackel". The story is told mostly from the Jackel's point of view and details every step of his way to Paris, with exerts to the various policeman who become aware of the plot, but can they identify and catch the killer before he strikes?Still an amazing read.
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Forsyth excels when it comes to the incidental, the minor details that make a story worthwhile. What he sometimes lacks is the good sense to make all of his characters, if not fully-realised, at least not so one-dimensional as some of them can be. I'm talking about you, mister French secretary for the state (or something), running off to pillow-talk all your secrets to some nymphette in the pay of the other side.The story itself is the popular tale of an anonymous English assassin hired to kill General de Gaulle. As I mentioned, the incidental details show a master craftsman at work, with Forsyth laying out in the assassin's plans in all their intricacy. Brilliant on the one hand, stubbornly annoying on the other, then.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book reminded me why I love to read. I get to go anywhere my imagination can see
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
cooknbooks More than 1 year ago
I came across this book when I was in middle school and I attributed the development of my interest in reading to it. I was in my dentist's waiting room and this book happened to be on the end table. Out of boredom (by that time there's no such thing as iphone), I started to read it and I couldn't put it down. Then I realized that reading could be so much fun. It was a well written book with a brilliant and yet, believable plot; the story was meticulously presented. The result is a fantastic thriller. Highly recommended.
drkrec More than 1 year ago
Great Classic. Enjoyed the classic that I learned about from a recommendation of a famous author
Consciously-Sedated More than 1 year ago
Haven't read this book for it still Love it...!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago