Agent Zigzag Audio Book Review

Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal

Authored by Ben MacIntyre, Narrated by John Lee

Audiobook, 10 hours and 53 minutes

Published by RANDOM House Audio, September 2007

Language: English


Eddie Chapman was an English criminal and con man.  Before the Second World War he made a career out of extortion and petty theft, and then moved on to bigger things by blowing safes with an explosive called gelignite, which is similar to dynamite.  Universally described as charming and a smooth talker, he was romantically involved with several women at the same time.  At the beginning of the war, he was vacationing with one of his love interests on the Channel Island of Jersey when the police caught up with him and he wound up in prison.  When the Germans seized the island, they found Chapman in jail.

Chapman eventually was released from prison but could not leave the island.  He volunteered to spy for the Germans, but was eventually arrested by the Gestapo (ironically for a crime he didn’t commit) and sent to prison in France.  The prisoners there also served as hostages, several being executed in reprisals for sabotage carried out by the Resistance.  Chapman was pulled out by German military intelligence, the Abwehr, and trained as a spy and saboteur.  He was parachuted into England whereupon he immediately turned himself in and offered to work as a double agent for MI5.

Author Ben MacIntyre has conducted extensive research using declassified MI5 files to reconstruct the complicated story of Eddie Chapman, known as Agent Zig Zag by his British handlers.  Chapman undoubtedly operated in his own self-interest at all times, yet was trusted by both the Abwehr and MI5.  He never betrayed Britain, but was never exposed by his German handlers.  MI5 expunged his criminal record, Germany awarded him the Iron Cross.  MacIntyre does an excellent job of telling Chapman’s story, which reads like a spy novel only much more compelling because it is true.  Highly recommended, particularly if you have an interest in the inner workings of military intelligence organizations.

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