A riveting three-way spy story set in occupied France.
In the tradition of Ben MacIntyre, Game of Spies tells the story of a lethal spy triangle in Bordeaux between 1942 and 1944 - and of France's greatest betrayal, by aristocratic and right-wing Resistance leader Andre Grandclement.
The story centres on three men - one British, one French and one German - and the duel they fought out in an atmosphere of collaboration, betrayal and assassination, in which comrades sold fellow comrades, Allied agents and downed pilots to the Germans as casually as they would a bottle of wine.
It is a story of SOE, treachery, bed-hopping and executions in the city labelled la plus collaboratrice in the whole of France.
Praise for A Brilliant Little Operation:
"The story of Operation Frankton is an extreme example of a plan brilliantly conceived and badly botched. The 10 commandos who made a secret canoe raid in 1942 on German merchant ships have become icons of British wartime derring-do." (The Times)
"No doubt many more books will be written about the war, but I hope this becomes a model for them since, though the heroism of our boys is stirring stuff, history only makes real sense if you can see it from all sides." (Daily Telegraph)
"Paddy Ashdown has sifted the facts from the myths to write a fascinating and very personal account." (Independent)
"It moves at the pace of a thriller and it's real." (Nick Ferrari, Sunday Express)
"Ashdown's insights and his extensive research in an impressive range of archives will ensure that yet another work on the subject will not be required in the foreseeable future." (Times Literary Supplement)
This is a book for anyone with a serious interest in WWII and, more specifically, the French Resistance, and the SOE. In addition to the three main characters, the spy, the traitor, and the Nazi, there is a large and diverse cast of characters with various (and sometimes shifting) allegiances, roles, and relationships. This means that the book requires more concentration than many, but it is concentration amply rewarded, from the beginning to the epilogue which lingers in my mind for what it says about people and organisations during war and peace. Not only is the story compelling and often exciting, it is historically significant. As Ashdown points out, there is no element of moral judgement in his book yet, looking beyond the events and characters depicted here, readers must inevitably try to imagine what they might have done in that time and place: how would they decide between their own survival, the safety of loved ones, love for country and, especially in the case of the French, liberty. Paddy Ashdown is a wonderful writer and story teller, and his he is the perfect narrator for this book. He has excellent French, essential in a book with so many French names. And – praise be - he is one of few English narrators who do not mispronounce Roosevelt. The book is a triumph and I have already started re-reading it.
Meticulously researched and interesting main characters, but I got the impression the writer really tried to spin it out for as long as possible; it starts brilliantly but the pace kind of drops off after a while. There were so many superfluous characters who played minor roles it was difficult to keep track - and at the end when he explained what became of them all after the war I'd forgotten who most of them were and what they'd done.
The amount of detail reflects the huge amount of research which was obviously done for this book, but I would have preferred a shorter version.