Ok so. It is WWII and ze Churmans are using everyone’s favorite Novelized Ingenue Haunted By Mature Lover’s Previous Wife, Rebecca, as the source for an unbreakable code (this actually happened, so this is kind of like historical fiction only with COMPLETELY MADE UP PEOPLE AND EVENTS). This book has nothing to do with that one, btw, except that they read the opening line like nine times, and then at one point Vandam reads it and is like, This makes me think of Elena, as she is young and my dead wife was both beautiful and cold, but that is silly because I am not going to marry Elena. And I am like, Yes you are because the promotional stills from the film have already given that away and besides, this is totally That Kind of Book.
Germans, Rebecca, Vandam is a Something in the British army stationed in Egypt but he is convinced there is a SPY because Rommel is uncannily good at predicting the British army’s moves. And lo, Vandam is not wrong. Because Alex Wolff, half-German half-Arab, is wandering around Cairo passing himself off as South African because that’s the one accent that everyone goes, Oh, sure, I guess. Carry on. Wolff is assisted by Sonja, the SEXUALLY VORACIOUS BELLY DANCER who seduces a chinless army officer so that Wolff can go through his briefcase for Secrets. Because each dude needs a broad, Vandam is backed by Elena, the former call-girl who wants to shape up and fly right (but who is also very sexy).
It’s full of motorcycle chases through Cairo, and knife fights in the dark, and sting operations that go terribly wrong and put young, vulnerable flesh in danger. And it’s astounding how much the action is helped by a lack of cell phones and the inability to call for backup, or by the need to write information down on paper and then carry that paper around where it can be stolen while you are off being seduced, or by the tendency of army types to walk about during wartime sans a vestful of guns or even, like, a knife. You are in occupied territory, man! Just carry a knife in your boot and this will all be ok.
And I’m all for sexy bits but Sonja, the VERY SEXY BELLY DANCER, has a penchant for rejection – based on a childhood adventure in her parents’ marital bed – and there’s a whole long plot thread that hinges on this prediliction of hers and it’s a little degrading and a little squicky and a little, you know.
And Vandam is very What ho, we are indeed colonial and perhaps the Egyptians have a right to hate us but wait til they see what occupation by Germany is like because we are Decent Folk and Germany is full of Ruthless Bores so they should appreciate our booted presence on their soil etc., in a way that doesn’t sound ironic.