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

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,910 Ratings  ·  858 Reviews
Eddie Chapman was a charming criminal, a con man, and a philanderer. He was also one of the most remarkable double agents Britain has ever produced. Inside the traitor was a man of loyalty; inside the villain was a hero. The problem for Chapman, his spymasters, and his lovers was to know where one persona ended and the other began.

In 1941, after training as a German spy in
Hardcover, 364 pages
Published September 4th 2007 by Crown (first published 2007)
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Stella Ok for 9th - 12th. Eddie was a huge stinker with women. Very promiscuous and prostitutes are mentioned. Also, lots of tragedy from the war.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 29, 2014 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
Shelves: spies
”War was coming, everyone said so, but the dining room of the Hotel de la Plage was a place of pure peace that sunny Sunday. Beyond the golden beach, the waves flickered among a scatter of tiny islands, as Eddie and Betty ate trifle off plates with smart blue crests. Eddie was halfway through telling another funny story when he froze. A group of men in overcoats and brown hats had entered the restaurant and one was now in urgent conversations with the headwaiter. Before Betty could speak, Eddie ...more
If you're looking for an even-handed recounting and reflections on this book, you should probably check out Jeffrey Keeten's stellar review (it has lots of pictures and everything). However, if you're looking for my favorite moments of skullduggery(along with the occasional pop culture parallel), then you're in the right spot.

Eddie Chapman (codename: ZigZag) was, among other things, the head of the "Jelly Gang" (they used gelignite to break into safes), a bit of a lady's man living in "the wor
Rating Clarification: 3.5 Stars

While not as interesting a read as Macintyre's Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory, the true story of double agent Eddie Chapman still had its moments. Chapman was a thief, a con-man, a ladies man (with a girl in every port, so to speak) and a hustler.

I liked him immensely.

What a charming rogue. The kind of guy you'd like to have drinks with, but not the kind you'd "take home to mother" (thanks, Rick
Sep 05, 2012 Caroline rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Oh dear. One third of my way through Agent Zigzag, and I am going to have to give up reading it. I cannot bear the 'And this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened' Boys’ Own stodge a minute longer. I have indigestion and a headache.

One good thing has emerged from this failed reading. I realise I don’t much like biographies and autobiographies. There have been a couple that really shone for me, but it’s a genre I often find myself struggling with. I find them plodding – perhaps
Sep 27, 2012 Harold rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii
Quite an adventure! Eddie Chapman was charming, handsome, smart, cunning and manipulative and able to play both ends against the middle. To this day no one is sure how he really played the game, although Great Britain benefited the most from Eddie's talents....that is with the exception of Eddie himself.

A word should be said about Britain's MI5 unit. After reading this book and Operation Mincemeat by the same author, it would appear that Great Britain had the best Military Intelligence unit in W
Dec 01, 2008 Chuck rated it really liked it
This is a splendid biography of Eddie Chapman, who went from small-time criminal to double-agent for the British during World War II while never fully abandoning his anti-establishment urges. Chapman performed many wartime feats of derring-do, and although his main allegiance appeared to lie with the Allies, he was was also trusted and rewarded by the German Abwehr; after the war, he even invited one of his principal German contacts to attend his daughter's wedding. This multi-facted and multi-t ...more
Jun 09, 2014 Zach rated it really liked it
I really want to rate this book 3 stars, but it was a lot of fun to read. It's not the best writing and the amount of detail is cumbersome at times, but it moves briskly. The plot is instantly intriguing: Eddie Chapman, a small-time crook, is jailed by the English and enslaved by the Nazis when they conquer the Channel Islands. Because of his safe-cracking and explosives experience, he offers to serve as a spy for the Germans. In due time, his request is honored, and he begins training in the Fr ...more
Nov 24, 2008 Christopher rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii, history
On my way to work, a co-worker asked me what I was reading so avidly. I replied "Agent ZigZag. It's about a British bank robber who is stuck in WWII occupied Europe, volunteers to be a spy for the Germans, parachutes into Britain and immediately calls MI5 to volunteer to work for them instead."

"So fiction then." my co-worker replied.

"No way, they can't write fiction this absurd. It'd never get published." (in a later chapter, an MI5 interrogator wrote almost that same line into Eddie Chapman's f
Merry Bones
Apr 20, 2013 Merry Bones rated it it was amazing
John le Carre perfectly described this book, "Superb. Meticulously researched, splendidly told, immensely entertaining, and often very moving." I'll just add that this is one helluva book. It made me laugh, it broke my heart and it blew my mind away. Ben Macintyre is the kind of storyteller that I can only dream of becoming. Zigzag is, by himself a highly entertaining and compelling character, but he truly came alive for me with this book. And although a complicated story that was undoubtedly ex ...more
15/10 - A fascinating tale of British and German espionage during WWII. The quote from John Le Carre on the front cover, describing the book as

"Superb. Meticulously researched, splendidly told, immensely entertaining and often very moving."

is absolutely correct. I did find the story 'moving', but mostly only in that the treatment of Chapman by his second handler, after Reed was sent to France, was atrocious and mostly inspired by what I see as Ryde's jealousy over Chapman's success with women an
Jan 10, 2008 Alex rated it really liked it
Really excellent story, would have given it three stars if Chapman's life weren't so interesting because I think the author sort of dumbed it down at points and he could have gone into more detail on the backgrounds of the individuals involved, also the organization of the information got a little convoluted at times. I understand that he didn't want to do a full backstory every time a new person came into play, but inserting several chapters between name and history meant at times I was flippin ...more
Charles Finch
Oct 24, 2015 Charles Finch rated it really liked it
Exciting, fast, beautifully executed, a bit thin in the final analysis.
Suzanne Stroh
Sep 04, 2013 Suzanne Stroh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-shelf
A total page turner that bookends my top shelf. How the world of spycraft really works. And how funny it is, when it's not rabidly violent or psychopathological.

The author was blessed with a priceless true story, but that's only the beginning. I consider this the best history of WWII clandestine activities ever written, and quite possibly the best work of nonfiction I've ever read. Blindingly talented with superb timing and good taste, Ben Macintyre leads you from wartime Britain to France to No
Feb 18, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
AGENT ZIGZAG: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal. (2007). Ben Macintyre. ****.
This is the extremely well-written story about a double agent working for England during the Second World War. His code name was Zigzag, although his real name was Eddie Chapman; although he used a variety of aliases during his career. Chapman was recruited and trained by the Nazis to work for them. When he was out of spy school, and made his first trip to England – parachuting in to a secluded spot –
Regina Mclaughlin
High adventure, reading the chronicles of a double agent during WWII. Our hero--can you call him that?-- is prone to cracking safes, jumping through windows, manipulating friends and seducing women by the busload. Did I mention, he also carries the fates of both Germany and Britain on his back.

Expect a wildly careening, ribald series of chase scenes, foxy schemes, somber imprisonments, and explosions galore. Oh, and prepare to have your moral and imaginative limits stretched and then stretched
Dec 23, 2008 J. rated it liked it
Recommends it for: ... confidence gamers ...
This is a good solid account of a very intriguing history. Actual story of intel operations in wartorn Europe ... deception, deals, camouflage, disinformation, scams, trickery ... spymasters and double agents galore. And with the protagonist a convicted felon, every trick has a few extra layers.

The tiniest details tell a lot : when they wanted to convince the other side that a certain secret chunk of war technology was available, deadly and miniaturized for easy concealment, the British Secret
Jack Cheng
A book that sports the blurb "The best book ever written" (Alex Beam, Boston Globe) is looking for a smackdown.

Unless.... it's really very good.

Agent Zigzag tells the tale of Eddie Chapman, bank robber and ladies man, who finds his Channel Island prison suddenly run by an occupying German army. He offers to spy for the Nazis, and then while training in occupied France, memorizes as much as he can so he can give enemy information to the Brits.

Chapman is an amazing character, as are his German and
Cynthia Haggard
Mar 09, 2012 Cynthia Haggard rated it it was amazing
Ben Macintyre’s AGENT ZIGZAG is a gripping account of a double-agent during World War Two, who must have been incredibly charming, because not only did he acquire three girlfriends waiting patiently for him in London, Oslo and the countryside of England, but he also managed to convince the German secret service that he was loyal to Hitler. Never once did he falter when closely questioned by various German officers. His courage and coolness are stunning when one considers what would have happened ...more
Dean Kauffman
Jul 13, 2012 Dean Kauffman rated it it was amazing
This was a book I read for the Arlington Va, Westover Library book group for the month of June, 2012. It is a nonfiction story of a British counterspy - who started working for the Germans but when sent to Britain to be a saboteur immediately contacts the British secret service to work as a counterspy. The full story was only released in the 2000's and the massive information that became available has been very skillfully used by this author. This book was liked by every member of the approximat ...more
Apr 05, 2016 Jeanette rated it liked it
This agent was masterful at being himself. Sounds confusing? He was. And his story is too. Primarily because he was such an actor and so much a chameleon by nature that the core man was never "fake".

It's sounds impossible to have the verve and the bad boy nature to this extent over such a constantly transient life. But Chapman lived it and in such a way that a decent goal in wartime became the real, rather than endless prison sentences.

My own experience of enjoying this one? It was good and the
Rick Riordan
Nov 08, 2013 Rick Riordan rated it it was amazing
I love good historical nonfiction, and Macintyre knows how to write. He tells the story of Eddie Chapman, a charming English criminal who is jailed in France during World War II, becomes a spy for the Nazis, is sent back to England and turns himself into MI5 to become a double agent for the British. The story is better than a spy novel, because it’s true, and proves the old saying that truth is stranger than fiction. Chapman goes back and forth between the British and the Nazis, playing both si ...more
May 27, 2015 Jess rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this, totally in my wheelhouse. I didn't realize until I started reading that this author also wrote Operation Mincemeat, which I also liked. His writing is engaging and the topic more unique.
Mar 29, 2014 Ross rated it liked it
Having read more than 50 fictional spy novels, I am rather surprised that this is the first true story I have read of a real spy, and a double agent to boot. I might also count the Dreyfus affair, since that was a true story as well. But Major Dreyfus was wrongly convicted of being a spy, and since he was not in fact a real spy, I won't count it.
So we have here the true story of an amazing double agent who was a master confidence man, absolutely fearless, and a notorious womanizer. In short a ch
Mar 18, 2016 Becky rated it really liked it
History like you wouldn't believe. Literally, its unbelievable. The most interesting part of this is probably the mystery that still surrounds Chapman, which side was he and his German handler really playing for? Or were they playing for any side, or just their own? I read this years ago, but I remember it lagging a bit in the middle since Chapman really isn't that great of a guy (read: total ass) and being a bit frustrated with him. Still, a good read.
May 27, 2015 Jen rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction

I finished Agent ZigZag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben MacIntyre, an account of British triple agent Eddie Chapman during WWII. While I did not like it as much as MacInyre's Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory (reviewed here; gotta' love the titles), Agent ZigZag is a fascinating look at Britain's utilization of a handsome, brazen young criminal who was finally arrested and jailed on occupied Jersey,
Sep 14, 2015 Mandy rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
As an audiobook, this was great. It was like listening to a movie. Oh, wow. That actually sounds pretty miserable. This wasn’t miserable. This was fun and moved pretty quickly for an audiobook. Well, at least once you speed everything up by 1.25 times.

So, Eddie Chapman was an English thief and con man who ended up being trained as a German spy during WWII. The Germans sent him back to England to blow stuff up. When Eddie landed in England, he immediately turned himself in to the authorities. Ed
Dec 07, 2014 Wendy rated it really liked it
I was initially turned off and even hated the main character. Eddie Chapman epitomizes the everything contrary to that which is good and virtuous. But, a credit to Ben Macintyre's writing, I became engrossed in his life and what would happen. And I marveled at how the war could use his vice's as virtues. I even wanted to scream 'foul' when his spying career came to an end, but alas. The author did a good job of reconciling it...

Colonel Robin 'Tin Eye' Stephens: “Fiction has not, and probably nev
Jim Leffert
Sep 04, 2010 Jim Leffert rated it it was amazing
Eddie Chapman was a gentleman crook (from humble beginnings) in the 1930’s who ended up in prison on the Isle of Jersey when the Nazis occupied the island. He offered to work for the Nazis as a spy in England. They sent him to France, where he was thoroughly trained in the craft of espionage and sabotage by the Abwehr, the German Secret Service. Dropped in England, he immediately presented himself to the police and offered to serve as a double agent. Serving at various points on the Continent an ...more
Sep 22, 2011 Gerry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Colonel Robin 'Tin Eye' Stephens, one of Eddie Chapman's interrogators, said, 'Fiction has not, and probably never will, produce an espionage story to rival in fascination and improbability the true story of Edward Chapman, whom only war could invest with virtue, and that only for its duration.'

Never a truer word has been written or spoken for Chapman's exploits for both the Germans and the British very nearly defy belief. How he held it all together and lied his way through World War II as a do
Jul 11, 2011 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-history
Everyone who believes in conspiracy theories is a bonehead. If you agree, and like (as I do) to read things which confirm your self-satisfied preconceptions, then this book is for you. Using a rare conspiracy that actually worked as a frame, it shows how difficult it is to actually hold a conspiracy together, owing to the unfortunate human tendency to quarrel, get drunk, talk too much, cut corners, pinch pennies, ignore details, lose sight of the main aim, and so forth.

Other reviewers have comp
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Espionage 6 23 Oct 30, 2014 01:49PM  
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  • The Double-Cross System The Incredible True Story of How Nazi Spies Were Turned into Double Agents
  • Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs: The Unknown Story of the Men and Women of World War II's OSS
  • Sisterhood of Spies
  • With Wings Like Eagles: A History of the Battle of Britain
  • Station X: The Codebreakers of Bletchley Park
  • The Man Who Never Was
  • Enigma: The Battle for the Code
  • Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5
  • Wild Bill Donovan
  • The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War
  • Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II
  • Churchill's Wizards: The British Genius For Deception 1914–1945
  • The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The WWII Codebreaking Centre and the Men and Women Who Worked There
Ben Macintyre is an author, historian and columnist writing for The Times newspaper. His columns range from current affairs to historical controversies.

In July 2006, Macintyre wrote an article in The Times entitled "How wiki-wiki can get sticky", criticising the limitations of Wikipedia. He cited the self-regulation system as inadequate when literally "anyone" could add supposed "facts" to Wikipe
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“The policemen agreed they were living with a most peculiar fellow. One moment he was reading classical literature in the original French and quoting Tennyson, and the next he would be discussing the best way to blow up a train.” 12 likes
“Well you stick the dynamite in the keyhole and you don't damage the safe, only sometimes you put a little too much in and blow the safe door up, but other times you're lucky and the safe just comes open.
Thus the scion of a great banking dynasty learned how to rob a bank.”
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