D-Day, 6 June 1944 was a victory of arms. But it was also a triumph for a different kind of operation: one of deceit, aimed at convincing the Nazis that Calais and Norway, not Normandy, were the targets of the invasion force. The deception involved every branch of Allied wartime intelligence. But at its heart was the “Double Cross System”, a team of double agents controlled by the secret Twenty Committee. The key D-Day spies were just five in number, and one of the oddest military units ever assembled: a Peruvian playgirl, a Polish fighter pilot, a Serbian seducer, a wildly imaginative Spaniard, and a hysterical Frenchwoman. Their enterprise was saved from catastrophe by a shadowy sixth spy.
©2012 Ben Macintyre (P)2012 Soundings
Avid reader of history, biography, and true crime.
This is a must read for anyone who is interested in WWII or who just likes a ripping and suspenseful spy story. I agree with all positive comments below. The book is beautifully written, with the occasional sardonic observation to bring a smile to your lips. The narration is perfect in every way. My only reservation has also been mentioned below - it can be difficult to keep track of the various players in audio format, but I found that with each switch between characters I quickly remembered what they were up to, so I don't consider it a reason not to read the book in audio. And listening to Michael Tudor Barnes is a treat not to be missed. I was left with just one question - could the Germans really have been THAT inept? Apparently so!
"Doesn't 'Quite' meet heights of his previous books"
Don't get me wrong, this is still a very good book, and the narrator does an excellent job. I think the problem is that Ben Macintyre has written a book that has cast too wide a net to be fully conveyed as an audio book. There's so many parallel threads going on that I sometimes found myself trying to remember exactly which Agent was which. In a physical book, that's not a problem, as you can always flick back to double-check things for clarity. That's not an option in an audio book....
His previous two books had the benefit of either one central agent or one core operation to focus on. Here, there's a lot of different threads and different plots to try to keep track of.
Bottom line it's still a good listen, but I suggest starting with either Agent ZigZag or Operation Mincemeat first, to "ease" yourself in!
"Great but too many doubles?....."
I really enjoyed McIntyre's first two books and although the information in them had appeared elsewhere he delivers the details in such a detailed and personable way that the book reads like a weird blend of a thriller combined with a news bulletin.
In the latest book he sketches the most complex and daring orchestration of wartime deception - all based on fact, newly released by MI5. Although the plot is rich and unbelievably complex, and although the daring of the spies is far greater than before, the book never reaches the intensity of its two predecessors. This could be that there is less focus on one small cast of characters and the canvas is bigger, more complex with less opportunity to understand the lives and motives of the main characters. At times the cast of characters is unwieldy because of the number of characters and the complexity of the charade they were developing.
As always one is looking forward to the epilogue to explain how the people ended up. The work they did was amazing and it affected the outcome of the war and therefore the course of world history. Ben M has written well, again, but with fewer main and subsidiary characters the book may have risen to the levels of its predecessors. Narration is brilliant with flawless accents applied consistently.
"An absolutely amazing true story, brilliantly told."
Writing and narration are beyond excellent. I highly recommend this compelling and true tale of these war time unknown heroes. Magnificent!
great book. a little confusing with all the individual story's but other wise great. a good listener
"Classic and gripping!"
Well-read and erudite, this book shows how the combination of brains, cunning and brute force can win the day. Amazing collection of characters, flawed and fabulous. Keeps the listener's attention all the way through! Excellent.
"Good book, narration is little off for me."
The story itself.
I love Ben Macintyre as an author. I love the themes of his books. This one was a little less organised than Zigzag and Mincemeat but still such a fascinating story and still well written even if it didn't match the standards Ben had set in previous books. Also, the fact that this book is about a group of characters who don't actually ever meet does make it tougher.
His voice, is a little aged. He also puts on an the same 'stiff upper lip' voice for every British character, and uses the same accent for every non-British character. His pace was good though, but I'd have to say I preferred the guy who did Operation Mincemeat (better book too).
"Brilliant Tale Well Told"
Ben Macintyre has a very engaging way of telling a story. Although the book represents the history of the D-Day Spies, the story is written as if it was a rather good John le Carre novel, and is the better for that.
Michael Tudor Barnes has exactly the right voice for narrating a wartime drama. It's as if you're listening to the news being broadcast direct from London in 1941.
The actual story is fascinating, and just goes to show that the truth can be stranger than fiction.
The list of names at the beginning didn't work well in audiobook format, and the write-off at the end of what-happened-to-whom was a bit long. But these are just minor criticisms of a 10/10 audiobook.
"Most recommended - life better than fiction"
As many times, life turns out to be more interesting than most fiction. This is a true story, based on hard facts from personal stories of people involved, but mostly based on MI5 dossiers. One of the better WW2 stories and one of the best audio books I listened to in last couple of years.
"You couldn't make it up"
This is an amazing, though at times bewilderingly complex story which has only entered the public domain in recent years. Not only has it been written in a thoroughly entertaining style which makes the whole deadly dangerous business of being a double agent seem like tremendous fun, (and apparently it was for a lot of the time) but it is made even more entertaining by the narration. Michael Tudor Barnes seems to do very passable versions of the voices of a huge range of characters with the greatest of ease.
I remember the example about Anthony Blunt: "In the parlance of the time he was 'batting for the other side', but little did MI5 know that he was - in more ways than one - and running up a very considerable score."
It has to be said that the spectacular success of MI5 was due in no small measure to the incompetence, corruption and disloyalty of the Abwehr. By the time it was taken over by the Nazi party SD it was fortunately too late.
This is history more strange, engaging and full of unusual characters than you could hope for in a novel. And well told.
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