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Publisher's Summary

Prior to the U.S. entering WWII, a small coterie of British spies in Washington, D.C., was formed. They called themselves the Baker Street Irregulars after the band of street urchins who were the eyes and ears of Sherlock Holmes in some Arthur Conan Doyle stories. This group constituted the very beginning of what would become M16, the British version of the CIA, and they helped support the fledgling American intelligence service, known at the time as the OSS.

Among them were writers Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming, and the flamboyant Canadian industrialist turned professional saboteur William Stephenson, known by the code name "Intrepid", upon whom Fleming would later base his fictional M16 agent James Bond. Richly detailed and carefully researched, Conant's narrative uses never-before-seen wartime letters, diaries and interviews to create a fascinating, lively account of deceit, double dealing and moral ambiguity - all in the name of victory.

©2008 Jennet Conant; (P)2008 HighBridge Company.

Critic Reviews

"A thoroughly engrossing story, one Conant tells exceptionally well." (Publishers Weekly)
"Reads like a classic spy novel....With this excellent history of personalities and politics during World War II, Conant adds successfully to her previous books that have made vivid the war's background players. Highly recommended." (Library Journal)
"Simon Prebble, fastidiously pukka in his accent, has a fine 'top-secret' voice, shaded with condescension and understatedly urgent. Coming from him, the expression 'rumor mill' sounds especially insidious, and the deeds he describes - 'eavesdropping and peering over people's shoulders,' forgery, political subversion and general backstabbing - seem wonderfully dastardly." (Washington Post Book World)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.6 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

  • 3.8 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
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  • 4 Stars
    77
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  • 1 Stars
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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Spying in Washington

I have to admit that I had high hopes and expected more from this book. Parts were interesting but a good bit of it lagged, dragged and droned on too long. Heavy on the gossip and light on the facts for my taste. Roald Dahl was a busy man--what with cook books, all his children's books and spying to boot. Sorry to say that I just can't recommend this book.

23 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dale
  • Pittsburgh, PA, United States
  • 02-28-11

Surprising

I downloaded this book on a whim. It was on sale and I've been listening to lots of WWII history and wanted something a bit different. In addition, I've read a lot of Dahl and own most of his children's books. The material is engrossing and the narrator is quite good. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because there is a middle section of the book where the story necessarily goes away from Dahl only to come back to him later that is somewhat confusing in audiobook format. The names and dates can come fast and furious and be a little overwhelming at times. In the end, however, it was a fascinating story and is told well by both author and reader.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Robert
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 10-31-13

Interesting anecdotes, not enough story

There's very little narrative about the British spy ring and their actual spying activities and lots of gossipy anecdotes about wartime Washington. It doesn't really deliver on the premise.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Linda
  • Harrisburg, PA, United States
  • 06-16-09

interesting

I learned a lot about about activities connected with WWII -- British spys in the Americas, Vice President Wallace, and Washington DC society. I had no idea that children's book writer Dahl had been a British spy in the US! It was definitely worth reading. But, the book was not linear and would jump back and forth. I prefer my non-fiction to be chronological.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Fascinating stuff

This is a remarkable book. The reading is "transparent", I didn't notice anything wrong at all. The book is fascinating, If you know WWII era history fairly well, you'll find all sort of people you perhaps didn't expect, for example Lyndon Johnson and Ian Flemming. I didn't even know how well I knew the works of Roald Dahl, in particular. I've listened to it a couple of times, and enjoyed it on the second listening.

My main complaint is that not enough of the darker "undercover" aspect of the history is revealed. Perhaps later more information will be revealed.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A Disappointment

I was expecting a book with some strategic context and insights into an interesting group of people who played an important, if little understood, role in the war effort. What it is instead is largely a collection of gossipy items with stereotyped character descriptions of the main "characters." I use "characters" loosely, because there is no coherent plot or theme to the book. I gave it up a bit over half way through.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • William
  • Winston Salem, NC, United States
  • 02-09-12

Not exactly a spy story

From the description I expected this to be a spy story, and while there was a good bit of cloak and dagger stuff, it's really more about American politics and high society shenanigans from about 1940 to 1945. Though I have little interest in political history I stuck with this book and was glad I did.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

The Irregulars

I usually prefer fiction but this fascinating history was so excellent that I couldn't stop listening. The story uses the life of Roald Dahl as a focus to explore British Intelligence in the U.S. leading up to the American entry in World War II. This well researched and well written story brings the period (30's, 40's and 50's)to life. I found this story informative, enjoyable and thought provoking. The reader added to my enjoyment, I'm glad I listened rather than reading.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Karen
  • StavangerNorway
  • 06-07-09

Witty,entertaining, real spies

This piece definitely gave me the most intimate and realistic feel for WWII espionage. Far from the Hollywood version, but a believable and honest vision of Britain's desparate efforts for American support in their fight against Hitler.

The narration is superb. One of the best I have heard since listening to "Portrait of a Lady". Simon Pebble is brilliant in conveying that wonderful caustic but satirical sense of humour that so British. A great listen.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Interesting account

I wanted to be fascinated and looked forward to learning about an experience I'd never explored before. In some sections of the book I was captivated, but other sections dragged on and I found myself wishing the editor had been more heavy handed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful