By Jay Holmes
DOUBLE CROSS addresses one of the more complex and important intelligence operations of World War Two. It explains how the UK’s MI-5 Counter Intelligence division quite effectively turned and managed German spies in an attempt to deceive Germany about the Allied plans for the invasion of Western Europe in 1944.
The first thing about this book that jumps out is its readability. Great Britain’s operation for running double agents involved many people and many details. The details can be tedious to consider, but without considering enough of them, these operations can’t be reasonably understood. MacIntyre has done a brilliant job of presenting enough details without making the book read like a boring bureaucratic report. I envy his ability to present such a complex and important piece of history in such a readable form.
Good history writers do good research—lots of it—and Ben MacIntyre certainly did his. But he did something else as well. He very skillfully analyzed the collected data and produced an accurate and clear interpretation of the facts. I’ve never met Ben MacIntyre, but if he was never a spook, he should have been one. For us.
In DOUBLE CROSS, McIntyre manages to present personalities from both sides of that terrible war in very human form. He demonstrates how imperfect people from diverse backgrounds working for MI-5 shared that one essential quality that any effective intelligence person must have. They shared a genuine commitment to their mission. In this case, their mission was to help defeat Nazi Germany. By most traditional standards, the agents would not appear to be “cut from the right cloth.” In some instances their handlers committed blunders in dealing with them. The book clearly shows the reasons why each of them might have failed miserably, as well as why they didn’t.
I had previously read and enjoyed a couple of MacIntyre’s books, but so far, this must be his masterpiece. I have no hesitation in giving this book a Five Star rating on the Five Star scale. It’s not a movie but I can’t help but assign our Bayard and Holmes “.44-Magnum” rating because I so rarely get to use that top assessment. Anyone with interest in World War Two or the world of intelligence operations, or who simply likes good action stories, should absolutely read this book. It’s purely a great book.
image from Bloomsbury.com
Bravo to Ben MacIntyre for staying awake and on course through so many hours of work reading thousands of pages of documents to get to the critical facts. Well done!
You can find DOUBLE CROSS, along with MacIntyre’s other books, at Ben MacIntyre: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle.
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‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.
© 2012 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.
Sounds like my kind of read. Thanks for the review!
Enjoy it Andrew.
I’m sure it’s a great book. If you hadn’t have reviewed it that picture of Ben and faces on the cover would just make me think its a spoof!
Hi Nigel. One of the things i like about the book is how clearly it shows that some seemingly unlikely people can do very effective intelligence work. The public is well aware of the “SEAL” or “Green Beret” type of individual but not very aware of the fact that you don’t have to be a “Green Beret type” to be a patriot.
Thanks for the important info that you posted on your blog.
Yes. Aline Griffith comes to mind as an ordinary person who used courage and determination in place of any raw macho abilities.
Must look out for this book! Apropos the secrecy associated with D-Day – and it may well be in that book – I believe the security category for Operation Overlord wasn’t ‘secret’, ‘top secret’ etc. It was ‘Bigot’. Those in the know were ‘Bigoted’, enabling conversations such as: ‘I say, old chap, are you Bigoted?’ – and if the recipient said ‘I should jolly well hope not, old bean’, then he wasn’t actually ‘in’ on Overlord planning. Classic British ‘wheeze’, I think.
Hi Mathew. I had heard about “Bigoted” but I had never heard that it was used as a test question.
Great review. Will have to look for the book. Thanks
This sounds like a great read! Thanks! Once again it proves that the truth is often stranger than fiction.