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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 5 August 2017
Ben Macintyre's real life account of spy, Eddie Chapman, reads like a thriller. Although packed with fact, the text is gripping and I was keen to know what happened next.

Source material is annotated and accessible and there's a veracity to the content which makes the story an exciting and relevant read. This book links well with others by the author, who writes with authority about espionage and duplicity in WWII. Chapman was a no mark crook who d beloved a taste for the high life. There's a strange naivety about the way in which disaffected individuals were 'turned'. Macintyre explores the way in which Chapman reached a position where he was content to maybe betray his country. But he also explores other possibility and the reader is left to judge the truth. Informed, intelligent, compelling and written with verve and a real sense of adventure.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 October 2017
Ben Macintyre, a quite superb writer, has a knack of unearthing gems of stories. A previous book, A Foreign Field, told the remarkable tale of four British soldiers given sanctuary in a French village during the First World War after being marooned behind enemy lines. Now he has told the equally remarkable story of Second World War double agent Eddie Chapman.

Chapman, a criminal, sybarite and serial philanderer, found himself on Jersey when the Germans invaded and was transferred to a hellhole of a prison in Paris. The only way out of this benighted existence was to volunteer his services to the Abwehr as a secret agent. Eventually accepted, he was then parachuted into England, where he promptly landed flat on his face and then swiftly handed himself over to the police and volunteered to become a secret agent.

Get the picture? This was a man who first and foremost was driven by self-interest. Yet, as Macintyre makes clear, Chapman was not that simple a character. He developed a genuine affection for his Abwehr controllers. As for his many female conquests, he always professed undying affection, an emotion that was uniformly reciprocated.

Even his British secret service superiors, who, correctly, treated him initially with hostility and suspicion, succumbed to his undoubted charm and ability. Only when he volunteered to assassinate Hitler and go out in a blaze of glory did they curb his patent enthusiasm for espionage. That he was eventually sacked as an agent owed far more to another man's jealousy than to Chapman's failings.

Ben Macintyre tells Chapman's story with panache, affection and tremendous wit. In the course of Agent Zigzag, there are many charming and touching vignettes, none more so than the case of Praetorius, one of Chapman's Abwehr minders. A fan of all things English, but especially folk dancing, Praetorius eventually left the secret service and was appointed dance instructor to the Wehrmacht in the middle of the war. It makes you wonder why it took so long for the Germans to lose.
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 March 2014
Unlike the largely unproven or fictitious exploits of Sidney Reilly who preceded Chapman in the first World War, those of Chapman are better documented and recognised.

Chapman's story has been written and re-written several times, probably from the 1950's onwards, and by many different authors. This is probably the most recent telling of that story and is more complete than many others as it was based upon official documents that were only released in the first years of the Millennium.

Chapman was a known criminal in the between-war years, a safe-cracker and thief whose name was constantly in the newspapers and associated with crimes that he may or may not have committed. Escaping from Britain to avoid prosecution and eventually arriving in Germany, he was trained as a spy and saboteur and was returned to Britain, where he admitted his intended purpose to authorities and was persuaded to become a double-agent working against the Germans.

Britain had 'turned' many others in broadly similar circumstances who, when presented with the choice of almost immediate execution or working against their intended masters, several chose the latter although not all were deemed suitable. Chapman's talents at opening safes would be of great value to the Allies.

This book is that story in detail. Woven into the author's interpretation are elements of many other true WW2 events, names of known personalities and their exploits that are more fully explored elsewhere and by other writers. The author has also written 'Operation Mincemeat', the story of the 'Man Who Never Was' about which a movie of the same name was released in the 50s or 60s.
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 February 2015
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 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 "Schinder'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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on 10 October 2016
This tells the true story of the famous WW2 British agent Eddie Chapman. He was a criminal who found himself in prison in the Channel Islands when the Germans invade. He offers to work for them. He get's dropped into Britain from Germany and becomes a British agent who the Germans believe is working for them. The only man to be decorated by the Germans and the British. It's a fascinating story of true bravery. He was a unique character who is cunning brave and daring. There has been a film about him and documentaries but they only glimpse at the true story behind 'Agent Zigzag'. This is a well written and researched book which I found impossible to put down. I highly recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon 9 December 2014
This book had been sitting on a shelf for some time. I originally bought it for my husband - it's the type of book he enjoys and, true to form, he loved it. The "boys own" adventure story didn't really appeal to me but the history aspect did so eventually I picked it up.
Ben McIntyre is well known for his detailed research and, with this book, he continues his reputation by using the recently made available information to good use. The facts of the story are all there and they are presented in a way which is engaging from start to finish.
The book begins with a map and details about his research which is always guaranteed to pique the interest. When the story starts, I found myself being pulled in immediately and never let go.
It's a breathtaking, fast moving tale which the author manages to tell in a factual, controlled manner whilst never losing any of the excitement.
Eddie Chapman is portrayed as an unpredictable character, equally fascinating to both Britains and Germans during the war. Talking about the personnel that he deals with on both sides also gives a taster of the intelligence operations during the war.
Whilst all the adventure stuff is interesting (far more so than I expected), I found the most gripping aspect of the book to be the description of all the personal relationships he forges, particularly with his handlers, on both sides.
Delightfully, the side of Eddie Chapman's character which shines through is his intelligence, further enhanced for narrative purposes when compared to the almost stupidity of the people around him. Whilst everyone (well most!) seem to love him, there is never anyone who actually trusted him completely.
Great book for anyone with an interest in the period.
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on 6 May 2014
Ben Macintyre is a journalist. He can write. The story he has written about could not be a better one. It's true, it's got sex, the British class system underpins it, you are there with Nazi investigators who clearly don't have 'vays of making you tok', and it's got lashes of derring-do. The excitement wound together in a biographical narrative.
The central character - Eddie Chapman - wrote his own autobiography and nearly all the extensive Mi5 files are also now available. The exciting details (he was eating a roast 'with all the trimmings' before he jumped out of a hotel window pursued by the police) are there. For anyone who has simply watched James Bond, or Le Carré films (better still if you have read fiction and non-fiction spy books) it gives you a huge insight into what real spies, and double agents, and the people running them are all about.
Eddie Chapman was a colourful crook (a safe blower) who absconded from prison in the Channel Islands to work for the Germans but immediately became a double agent when they parachuted him into the UK. As someone in Mi5 said if this story was written as fiction it would 'be rejected as improbable.'
Now read it yourself!
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on 18 August 2015
An informative account of the activities of Agent Zigzag, Eddie Chapman during WW2. We are told how this deceitful dishonest character with a proven track record of serious crime, worked for the Intelligence services of both Germany and Britain during the war. We are led to believe that he gained the trust of both sides, but chose to concentrate his efforts in favour of the Allies. It is interesting to be told that Chapman, who previously had based his lifestyle on self interest was prepared to do this. Charmer though he may have been, I find it difficult to accept that the 'leopard changed its spots' to act other than in his own interests.
Well researched and wellwritten.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 4 February 2015
Excellently written, this story of Eddie (Agent Zigzag) Chapman's many adventures and misadventures as a double- or was that triple-? agent in WWII really does merit the cliche "Stranger than fiction". His romance with a Norwegian girl, and his reconciliation after the war with his German spymaster are the most intriguing parts of the book - the question in my mind always being how much collusion, inaction or general looking the other way did many "Good Germans" choose rather than arrest and the horrible fate at the hands of the Gestapo. After all Chapman was pretty reckless and incompetent at times, which adds to the entertainment of this gripping yarn. Wholeheartedly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 2 April 2011
Nicholas Booth's story of the life of double agent Eddie Chapman, Zig Zag, had the strengths and weakness of drawing substantially on interviews with Chapman's widow. Ben Mcintyre's book is a mirror image, based heavily upon official documents but lacking the insights that Betty Chapman provided for the earlier account.

What is beyond doubt is that Chapman was a remarkably brave rogue, a criminal with a strong patriotic streak who found espionage the ideal outlet for his restless need for adventure. He was an amoral character who, for a few exciting years, found himself on the side of the angels. He served Britain rather better than Britain served him once the war ended.

Mcintyre's book captures the ambivalence of Chapman's career well; it makes for a rollicking tale. However, the author's researches (which read impressively in other books) do seem to have had lapses. Other reviewers have remarked on errors in connection with small arms and with life at sea. I was puzzled by references to "Field Security Policemen." My own experience in Field Security (admittedly some five or six years after Chapman's time) was of Field Security personnel, mostly NCOs, and of Military Policemen - two different animals in entirely separate Corps. The doodlebug episode, suggesting that the flying bomb terrorised London, may be accurate, but it contrasts somewhat with how it felt to a youngster growing up while the V-1s crossed the south-east coast. Yes, from time to time we were apprehensive when we heard the engine's drone cut off, but terrified? Not really. It was the V-2 that was frightening - you heard nothing until the explosion.
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