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
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"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.
"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.
"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!
"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.
"Loved it! Great for war time spy enthusiasts!"
I loved the adventure in this book, although I do acknowledge what it says in some of the earlier reviews that the names can be confusing. Although the story doesn't flow as a traditional story, it doesn't matter. It weaves through the different threads of people's lives and it still amazes me the impact the double cross team had. I will definitely be listening to more books from this author.
"A lesser known area of the Second World War"
Most histories of the Second World War focus on the fighting forces, whether they be the war in the air, on land or at sea (whether on the surface or beneath the waves). Even books examining the intelligence angle tend to cover the excellent work done by Bletchley Park on cracking the German ciphers. By contrast, this fascinating and superbly written book looks at another angle of the intelligence war, that of the double agents working for the Allies and focusing on their role in the deception operation that did so much to make the D Day landings a success.
I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook and learned plenty of new information from it, despite having had an interest in this area of the Second World War for many years. I also enjoyed the postscript which covers what happened to the individuals after the War. The narrative is very well told and is clearly based on a significant amount of historical research. It is a fascinating story and shows yet again that the British approach to the War could be very innovative, some might say eccentric, and certainly far more successful than the Nazi way in comparable situations.
The narrator does a fine job with the narrative and brings the characters to life with a fine array of voices. To my mind this is a five star book and I can certainly recommend it to those with an interest in the War, whether with prior knowledge or coming new to this most interesting aspect of the intelligence story.
"A cracking tale"
If this was not a true tale, one would never credit it! This book is totally fascinating and captivating. A kaleidoscope of characters and the webs they wove. A brilliant tale; brilliantly told. I have listened to many audible books but I would rate this as one of the best. If you like 'stranger than fiction', with each page producing a yet more fascinating tale than the last, then this is for you. To cap it all, Michael Tudor Barnes reads with style, panache and with a firmly 'tongue in cheek' approach to the accents. Absolutely spiffing!
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