About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Zig Zag by Ben Macintyre

46. – 509.) Zig Zag by Ben Macintyre – The WW II biography of English double agent, Eddie Chapman, is a revealing portrait of actual spying. A successful and colourful criminal Eddie is in jail in Jersey at the time the island is occupied by the Germans. Eddie, seeking a better life and excitement and a way back to England, volunteers to become a German spy. The initial response is to jail him. Eventually the Abwehr decides to train him to be a spy and saboteur and drop him in England. The Germans do not realize the English Secret Service, because of Ultra, is able to decrypt their messages and know a spy is coming. Upon being parachuted into England Eddie promptly turns himself in to the authorities. After convincing them he is willing to be a double agent they start feeding misinformation back to his German handlers. There are challenges for the Secret Service as Eddie is actually a wanted criminal in England. They make the charges go away and proceed with the double cross. Eventually, an act of sabotage is faked and Eddie returns to Germany where he spends considerable time in Norway. Treated as a German hero is awarded the Iron Cross, the only English citizen to receive the award. Eventually, Eddie is dropped again in England and returns to the English Secret Service. Eddie is a charmer. Eddie loves women carrying on multiple relationships. At one point he has the English Secret Service supporting one lover and the Abwehr paying for another. As the war nears its end he is found expendable and cut loose. What was striking is how inept many of the spies, especially the German spies, were in training and ability. Eddie is a great spy though he obtains no major information. Fiction leads us to think of spies penetrating organizations and installations to obtain their deepest secrets. At least in WW II the image is wrong. Fiction also provides few spies who are criminals with a 
casual amorality. Also the immense resources devoted to dealing with one spy were surprising. There were teams on each side devoted to Eddie. Excellent. (Dec. 2/09)


  1. Bill - Thanks for this fine review. The character of Eddie seems as interesting, at least, as the actual spying in this novel. Very intriguing! Some people do just have that kind of charm that allows them to get just about anyone to believe them. It certainly seems Eddie's one of those people.

  2. Margot: Thank you. Amont the most dangerous of people are those with natural charm.

  3. I read this last year and loved it! I'm wondering if they're ever going to make a movie of it. It seems a natural.

  4. Yvette: Thanks for the comment. Do you have a prospective actor for Joe?