This was one of the books I’d been saving up for my holiday. I’ve been a fan of Ben MacIntyre’s books ever since I read Operation Mincemeat a few years ago. Agent Zigzag was a real treat last year on the World Book Night 2011 list so I was really looking forward to reading this one.
I didn’t get to it as quickly as I’d have liked as my husband wanted to read it first and he is not the fastest of readers. The wait was worth it, as ever the narrative was engaging and accessible. There is just the right amount of technical and historical detail to fully round out the story but this never swamps the human stories that are the key to the tale.
I have two criticisms of the book – one of my own and one from the other half. I found the constant use of cricketing terms really got on my nerves after a while. I can see why they are used – old boys’ network, typically British etc. etc. but even though I am a cricketing fan they stuck out like a sore thumb to me as they were used so much. I do worry that if you aren’t familiar with the terms then you might think this was another secret code being smuggled into a books about spies !
It was an anachronism that stuck for my husband – at one point one of the spies is given a transistor radio. From the outset my husband said that WW2 was too early for such a device and to prove this hunted out an Internet hotspot while we were away to look this up! According to Wikipedia he was right. The version of the book we read was an advance reading copy (a proof) so this may have been corrected in the final draft but once we knew that there was an error like this in the book both of us were wondering if there were many others.
In general this was an excellent book, I found that the twists and turns of the double/triple/quadruple agents clear and exciting and while we do now know the outcome of WW2 at the time it was far more uncertain and this book really explores another side of the battles we fought.