Agent Zigzag

Agent Zigzag

4.05 (8,955 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Paperback
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On a chill December night in 1942, a Nazi parachutist landed in a Cambridgeshire field. His mission: to sabotage the British war effort. His German masters called him Fritz or Fritzschen. The British police knew him as Eddie Chapman, 'a dangerous man and associate of thieves', and believed he was still in prison. Within weeks Chapman was in the hands of MI5 and operating as Agent Zigzag, opening the most sensational chapter in the history of British espionage. Unpredictable, dashing and louche, Chapman proved to be a handful for both his German and British spymasters. In the estimation of the Nazis he was their super-spy, to whom they awarded the Iron Cross for 'heroics' in Britain and occupied Europe; in the estimation of MI5, Zigzag had 'the courage to achieve the unbelievable'. He diverted the V1 flying bombs away from London, deceived the Germans with false information, and nonchalantly volunteered to assassinate Hitler, all with the same smooth confidence that made him a natural spy, and irrestible to women. But the restless Chapman courted contradiction as keenly as he embraced adventure. Inside the traitor lay a patriot; inside the villain, a man of conscience.
The problem for Chapman, his spymasters and his many lovers was to know where one ended and the other began. Ben Macintyre weaves together diaries, letters, photographs and memories of the living, along with fascinating top-secret MI5 files never before made public to create an exhilarating account of the many lives of Eddie Chapman. As MI5 concluded, 'The story of Eddie Chapman is different. In fiction it would be rejected as improbable.'
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Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 135 x 216mm
  • London, United Kingdom
  • B&W Inserts
  • 0747593639
  • 9780747593638
  • 2,243,837

Review Text

A preternaturally talented liar and pretty good safecracker becomes a "spy prodigy" working concurrently for Britain's MI5 and the Nazi's Abwehr.London Times newsman and popular historian Macintyre (The Man Who Would be King: The First American in Afghanistan, 2004, etc) reports on the life and crimes of the late Eddie Chapman using interviews, newly released secret files and, cautiously, the English spy's less-reliable memoirs. Just launching his criminal career when World War II began, the dashing adventurer was jailed in the Channel Island Jersey. Volunteering his services to the occupying Fatherland, he was taken to France and schooled in the dark arts of espionage and the wicked devices of spies by the likes of convivial headmaster Herr von Groning and spymaster Oberleutnant Praetorius. Then the new German agent signed a formal espionage contract (under which his expected rewards were to be subjected to income tax). Dropped in England's green and pleasant land to commit sabotage, he instead reported directly to His Majesty's secret service. There they called their man "Agent ZigZag." The Germans had named him "Fritzchen." Little Fritz, with the help of a magician, fooled his Nazi handlers into believing he had wrecked an aircraft factory. After a crafty return to Germany, he made another parachute drop home to report on an anti-sub device and the accuracy of the new V-1 flying bomb. The energetic adventurer from a lower stratum of British society was being run by Oxbridge gentlemen and by aristocrats of Deutschland at the same time. Or perhaps he was running them. Adorning his exploits were several beautiful women and an Iron Cross. It is a remarkable cloak-and-dagger procedural and a fine tale of unusual wartime employment. Based on the same material, another first-rate text (Nicholas Booth's ZigZag, 2007) with much the same Hitchcockian contortions qualifies as an exciting black-and-white spy thriller. Macintyre's version is in full color.One of the great true spy stories of World War II, vividly rendered. (Kirkus Reviews)
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About Ben Macintyre

Ben Macintyre is a columnist and Associate Editor on The Times. He has worked as the newspaper's correspondent in New York, Paris and Washington. He now lives in London with his wife and three children. Agent Zigzag is his fifth book.
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Rating details

8,955 ratings
4.05 out of 5 stars
5 32% (2,876)
4 45% (4,060)
3 19% (1,698)
2 3% (247)
1 1% (74)
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