Book Reviews

Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman: Lover, Traitor, Hero, Spy (reissued) by Ben Macintyre

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List Price: £5.78


Kindle Edition: 385 Pages.

Published: 17 August 2009 by Bloomsbury Publishing

Edition: 1



One December night in 1942, a Nazi parachutist landed in a Cambridgeshire field. His mission: to sabotage the British war effort. His name was Eddie Chapman, but he would shortly become MI5's Agent Zigzag. Dashing and louche, courageous and unpredictable, the traitor was a patriot inside, and the villain a hero. The problem for Chapman, his many lovers and his spymasters was knowing who he was. Ben Macintyre weaves together diaries, letters, photographs, memories and top-secret MI5 files to create the exhilarating account of Britain's most sensational double agent.


5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars5.0 Stars  by Anne

A fascinating look at one man's war experiences

This is fascinating reading. It is the story of Eddie Chapman, a small time crook and con man, who becomes a secret agent during the war - convincing the Germans that he is working for them undercover in England whilst really working for the British all along. It is difficult to believe that this is real but the author has done his homework and although it is difficult to know what impact, if any, Chapman had on the overall war effort his story makes for gripping reading.

You really get a feeling from this book of the excitement that some agents felt in doing the work that they did and also of the danger that they placed themselves in. Chapman was obviously a man who thrived on adventure and deceit but it is also obvious that he had a real sense of patriotism and a desire to contribute to the war effort. This book is full of interesting characters on both the German and the British sides and the author presents them all as real people with human motives rather than stereotypes who are all good or all bad. The events at the end of Chapman's career in the Secret Service and how he is treated, mostly because of his class, are very sad.

Chapman was a rogue, a petty criminal, a thief and a womaniser and he behaved the same before, during and after the war. I felt that the author rather minimised some of this behaviour in order to elicit sympathy and understanding for his main character. Chapman's war record speaks for itself - whatever his motives he was prepared to serve his country by acting as a double agent and by living in Germany during the war and reporting back to Britain - you can see by what happens to some of his compatriots that this is a very risky life.

Chapman rather reminds me of Oskar Schindler in Thomas Keneally's "Schindler's Ark" - he is a weak man who often does things which are unacceptable but when the time comes to take a stand he is prepared to take risks and put himself in peril for others and for his country. I really wonder what each of us would have done in Chapman's situation ?

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