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The Key to Rebecca

North Africa in the summer of 1942 and Rommel seems unbeatable. His secret weapon is Alex Wolff, master spy, and a deadly code buried in the pages of du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca. Crossing the blazing Sahara, Wolff enters Cairo to steal British military plans. His pursuer, Major Vandam, engages the lovely Elene to lure him into range. As Rommel’s troops come closer to victory, the pursuit continues across the desert to a startling, explosive confrontation.

Ken’s view

After the success of Eye of the Needle, my publishers would have liked me to write another World War Two spy story every year for 25 years. But I was only 29, and not ready to be put in a box. I was very firm that I was going to write anything that caught my fancy and the fancy of my readers. However, while researching Eye of the Needle, I had come across a wonderful true story.

There was a spy ring based on a house boat in Cairo in 1942 which involved a belly dancer and a British major she was having an affair with. The information at stake was crucial to the battles going on in the desert. The code used by the spies was based on one of the great suspense novels of all time, Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. The spycatcher in the story is trying to find the key to the Rebecca code. The Key to Rebecca was my third bestseller. After that, I really started believing that I was a success.

Listen to Ken’s view on The Key to Rebecca


Read the first chapter

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  • “A top-flight adventure thriller… violence, intrigue and exotic passions… a vivid page-turner!” — Washington Post
  • “The most exciting novel in years!” — Cincinnati Enquirer

Published as

The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett, William Morrow, New York, 1980.

Also published in other languages, and available as an audiobook and as an ebook.


The Key to Rebecca was filmed in 1985, starring Cliff Robertson as Major William Vandam, David Soul as Alex Wolff, Season Hubley as Elene Fontana and Anthony Quayle as Abdullah. See the Filmography pages for more information.