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

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  8,490 Ratings  ·  939 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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Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 18, 2013 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
Aug 24, 2012 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
May 18, 2011 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 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
Nov 13, 2008 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
Jun 07, 2014 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
Merry Bones
Feb 13, 2013 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
Nick Davies
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I picked this up having very much enjoyed 'Operation Mincemeat' by the same author, and this was similarly interesting and absorbing. Despite not being as familiar with the background story (or maybe, because of it) as compared to the aforementioned other book, it took a while to 'get into' this similar non-fictional tale of WWII military espionage, but it developed into a very satisfying and educational story.

The book centres around a British man, Eddie Chapman, and his subsequent involvement
Jan 10, 2008 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
Sep 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Exciting, fast, beautifully executed, a bit thin in the final analysis.
K.J. Charles
A jawdropping read about a small time criminal and con artist turned double agent in WW2. Chapman was a horrible selfish sociopathic exploiter and all round scumbag. He was in prison on Jersey, taken to a German prison camp after the invasion, volunteered to be a spy for the Nazis, trained in sabotage and espionage, sent back to Britain, where he promptly handed himself in and set out to become a double agent, working for the British and blowing up the German spy networks in the UK such as they ...more
Feb 18, 2013 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 –
Suzanne Stroh
Mar 15, 2013 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
Dec 12, 2008 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
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
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 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
The story of Eddie Chapman's work as a double agent during WWII is fascinating. Eddie Chapman was a crook - a smart, good-looking, sweet-talking crook. In fact, when the Germans occupied the Channel Island known as Jersey, he was in prison. He and a cell mate decided to offer to spy for the Germans so they could get out of prison and back to England. Eddie, who could speak a bit of German and a bit more French and knew something about explosives (he liked to open safes with a little explosive ma ...more
Dean Kauffman
Jul 13, 2012 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
Rick Riordan
Nov 08, 2013 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
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Mar 28, 2016 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
Sep 15, 2011 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 15, 2015 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.
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A quick read, great story, interesting characters, overall a fun read. Already bought operation mincemeat, will be my next read.
Regina Lindsey
Sep 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Who said non-fiction can't be fun? I read a lot of non-fiction and actually enjoy the minutiae of political philosophy, histoirical context, etc. But, everyone once in a while it is refreshing to read the personal tales of those who lived the moment. Macintyre's account of Eddie Chapman: English crook turned German spy-turned British Intel agent does just that, and it is deliciously fun to read!

"Fiction has not, and probably never will, produce an espionage story to rival in fascination and impr
James Millikan
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Agent Zigzag is an intriguing and true story of a British double agent during World War II. This biography of Eddie Chapman (Zigzag) is masterfully told by Macintyre, so much so that I often felt sharp pangs of empathy or laughed out loud as the story unfolded. Chapman is the epitome of a flawed hero, who draws upon his criminal past and general depravity to make great strides for M15 and the British war effort. In the worlds of Macintyre, paraphrasing one of Chapman's acquaintances, "Chapman wa ...more
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Espionage 6 26 Oct 30, 2014 01:49PM  
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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
More about Ben Macintyre...
“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.” 14 likes
“War is too messy to produce easy heroes and villains; there are always brave people on the wrong side, and evil men among the victors, and a mass of perfectly ordinary people struggling to survive and understand in between. Away from the battlefields, war forces individuals to make impossible choices in circumstances they did not create, and could never have expected. Most accommodate, some collaborate, and a very few find an internal compass they never knew they had, pointing to the right path.” 6 likes
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