Ben Macintyre’s latest foray into the little-known world of espionage and counter espionage during World War Two is, as to be expected from the highly esteemed writer, an utter triumph.
Like Macintyre’s past successes Operation Mincemeat and Agent Zigzag, Double Cross is impeccably paced; filled with quirky anecdotes and personal characteristics of the spies and double agents who risked their lives fighting the Nazis. Macintyre’s journalistic skill is evident through his ease of story-telling; in his hands these patched tales of historic heroes come to life on the page; Double Cross is a riveting read.
Astonishing is the lengths these people, these motely crew of double-agents, went to to protect their family, themselves and their country and yet we see others whose loyalties are laid with bank-notes. Remarkable too is the sheer number of non-British people who were forced to sacrifice their health, marriages, animals, for a country to which they had no tie. Some of these courageous, ordinary, young men and women; a Serbian playboy, a Portuguese farmer, a Spanish housewife, are the unrecognised heroes that helped defeat one of the most evil figures of European history. Macintyre brings their work, at last, to the fore.
The ingenuity behind the book though is the meticulous research that has clearly gone into the production. So accurate and detailed are the accounts of Hitler’s private conversations, and the late night romps between agents and socialites, that it is hard to believe Macintyre has not experienced the war first hand. From Hitler’s views on cricket – he didn’t think it was violent enough, and didn’t understand the necessity of protective gear – to the gruesome torture undergone by British spies at the hands of the Gestapo, Macintyre delivers with intelligent poise.
Double Cross is heartily recommended to anyone who has an interest in history, but, this is a fascinating account of the enduring powers of the human spirit, and is, moreover, recommended to anyone with a soul.
Double Cross is available now from Bloomsbury.
Words: Joe Bookbinder