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Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Ben Macintyre
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 31 2012 Editors' Pick: Best Books of 2012

In his celebrated bestsellers Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat, Ben Macintyre told the dazzling true stories of a remarkable WWII double agent and of how the Allies employed a corpse to fool the Nazis and assure a decisive victory.  In Double Cross, Macintyre returns with the untold story of the grand final deception of the war and of the extraordinary spies who achieved it.

On June 6, 1944, 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and suffered an astonishingly low rate of casualties.  D-Day was a stunning military accomplishment, but it was also a masterpiece of trickery. Operation Fortitude, which protected and enabled the invasion, and the Double Cross system, which specialized in turning German spies into double agents, deceived the Nazis into believing that the Allies would attack at Calais and Norway rather than Normandy. It was the most sophisticated and successful deception operation ever carried out, ensuring that Hitler kept an entire army awaiting a fake invasion, saving thousands of lives, and securing an Allied victory at the most critical juncture in the war.

The story of D-Day has been told from the point of view of the soldiers who fought in it, the tacticians who planned it, and the generals who led it. But this epic event in world history has never before been told from the perspectives of the key individuals in the Double Cross System. These include its director (a brilliant, urbane intelligence officer), a colorful assortment of MI5 handlers (as well as their counterparts in Nazi intelligence), and the five spies who formed Double Cross’s nucleus: a dashing  Serbian playboy, a Polish fighter-pilot, a bisexual Peruvian party girl, a deeply eccentric Spaniard with a diploma in chicken farming and a volatile Frenchwoman, whose obsessive love for her pet dog very nearly wrecked the entire plan. The D-Day spies were, without question, one of the oddest military units ever assembled, and their success depended on the delicate, dubious relationship between spy and spymaster, both German and British. Their enterprise was saved from catastrophe by a shadowy sixth spy whose heroic sacrifice is revealed here for the first time.

With the same depth of research, eye for the absurd and masterful storytelling that have made Ben Macintyre an international bestseller,  Double Cross is a captivating narrative of the spies who wove a web so intricate it ensnared Hitler’s army and carried thousands of D-Day troops across the Channel in safety.

Frequently Bought Together

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies + Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory + Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal
Price For All Three: CDN$ 44.07

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“Gripping stories from the perspective of a remarkable ragtag group of spies who tricked the Nazis in an astounding D-Day deception.  Puts other spy tales to shame.” – People

“It should be said loud and clear that Macintyre is a supremely gifted storyteller. He spins quite a yarn. His books are absurdly entertaining. I would kill for his keen wit. He takes us into a world of bounders, spivs, roués, and men (and women) on the make….Double Cross is a blast.” – Boston Globe

“Forget fiction when you are buying beach reading this summer. Ben Macintyre’s factual account is more gripping than what you will find anywhere else. It is a story unsurpassed in the long history of intelligence.” – Washington Times

“Macintyre at once exalts and subverts the myths of spycraft, and has a keen eye for absurdity” – New Yorker

“[A] complex, absorbing final installment in his trilogy about World War II espionage….Macintyre is a master storyteller.  Employing a wry wit and a keen eye for detail, he delivers an ultimately winning tale fraught with European intrigue and subtle wartime heroics.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“Superb….the story comes alive again in all its stupendous, unimaginable duplicity.…intensely readable” – Washington Post

“A wonderfully entertaining story of deception and trickery that is told with verve and wit….Macintyre’s early books about espionage in World War II have been bestsellers, and this will be no exception.” – Christian Science Monitor

“Macintyre revels in the surreal aspects of his story, writing with a breezy, almost tongue-in-cheek style. But the author is also adept at communicating the seriousness and the stakes of the underlying game….Nail-biting and chuckle-inducing reading.” – Columbus Dispatch

“Another captivating, improbably fresh story of World War II….Double Cross is ennobling, invigorating and, above all, entertaining. Macintyre's research is impressive, as is his ability to shape disparate facts into a breathless page-turner….Throw in nail-biting suspense and the occasional decadent Nazi (fickle mistress optional) and, with Macintyre in charge, you're virtually guaranteed a history book that reads like a spy novel.” – Richmond Times-Dispatch

“It is the riveting tales of these agents on which Ben Macintyre focuses, to full advantage, in Double Cross….Macintyre makes good use of the material. He knows how to let the high drama unfold on its own.” – Wall Street Journal

“London Times writer Macintyre (Agent Zigzag, Operation Mincemeat) concludes his WWII espionage trilogy with the tantalizing tale of an oddball, ‘Dirty Dozen’-like group of double agents who fool the Nazis into believing the Allied D-Day attack would come at Calais, not Normandy.” – New York Post, Required reading

A tale of smarts, personal courage and — even knowing what happened on June 6, 1944 — suspense.  Where would we be if these troubled, eccentric and hang-it-all characters hadn't known how to lie, and lie well?” Seattle Times

“As in his earlier best-sellers about WWII-era spycraft, Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat, Macintyre writes with novelistic flair.” – Entertainment Weekly

“The story of D-Day – when 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy – as it’s never been told before….this amazing story shows how double agents and spies tricked the German army and saved thousands of Allied lives.”
New York Post

“Only with author Ben Macintyre’s scintillating account has this complex human drama, with all its tortuous twists and turns, finally received the cinematic treatment it deserves….This is edge-of-the seat stuff.” – WWII Magazine

“Macintyre does a fine job depicting this extraordinary cast and exposing the ambiguous world of espionage....compelling.” – MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History

“With the same skill and suspense he displayed in Operation Mincemeat and Agent Zigzag….Macintyre effortlessly weaves the agents’ deliciously eccentric personalities with larger wartime events to shape a tale that reads like a top-notch spy thriller.” – Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Macintyre has written a tense, exciting real-life spy story that illuminates a largely obscure aspect of WWII.” – Booklist

“With his latest book, Double Cross, Ben Macintyre tells the astonishing true story of a bizarre group of misfit spies who played a critical role in the success of D-Day.  The stories in this book, many of which have never before been told, are nothing short of incredible.  Skillfully woven together, they form one of the most gripping narratives I have ever read.” – Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic

“Ben Macintyre and I work in the same period, and I should be reading him because he is such a scrupulous and insightful writer – a master historian. But, with Double Cross and his other excellent works, I always wind up reading him for pleasure.  Double Cross may be his best yet, falling somewhere between top-class entertainment and pure addiction.” – Alan Furst, author of A Mission to Paris

"Ben Macintyre’s spellbinding account features an improbable cast of characters who pulled off a counter-intelligence feat that was breathtaking in its audacity. Their deceptions within deceptions—known as the Double Cross—were critical to the success of the D-Day invasion, and continued to mislead the Germans long after Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy. A truly bravura performance, as is Macintyre’s fast-paced tale." -- Andrew Nagorski, author of Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power

"How on earth, in 1944, did we dupe Berlin that we would attack the coast of France in completely the wrong place?  It was a deception that saved tens of thousands of Allied lives.  In Double Cross, Ben Macintyre ingeniously explains exactly how it was done." – Frederick Forsyth
"Never before revealed facts about the workings of the Intelligence Service in the build up to D-Day in the Second World War.  Ben Macintyre's remarkable book is a gripping revelation." – Jack Higgins

“[Macintyre] has excelled himself with a cast of extraordinary characters and in his storytelling abilities....Double Cross is an utterly gripping story.” – Antony Beevor, The Telegraph

“Enthralling....Macintyre is a master at leading the reader down some very tortuous paths while ensuring they never lose their bearings. He’s terrific, too, at animating his characters with the most succinct of touches....gripping.” -- London Evening Standard

About the Author

Ben Macintyre is a writer-at-large for The Times of London and the bestselling author of Operation MincemeatAgent ZigzagThe Napoleon of Crime, and Forgotten Fatherland, among other books.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Salacious and exciting, but short on substance Feb. 4 2014
If you want non-fiction that reads like fiction, this might be what you're looking for. On the other hand, maybe this is written up a little too much like fiction. I like a little meat with my entertainment and I didn't really find it here. If you want someone stating how much of a womanizer X is and how scandalized Y is and repeating ad nauseum, then this might be what you're after. I didn't find these guys' love lives all that interesting.

The D-Day angle is of course intriguing, but I didn't find this book to meet expectations. This is a page-turner though, i.e. not boring for the most part, other than the obsession with their (boring) relationships.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very informative Jan. 22 2014
By lidak
so much is revealed about the great espionage operation leading to the D-day. Very informative. The fact that the author included pictures in the book is a the added bonus. really enjoyable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of "Double Cross" Aug. 31 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A splendid account of the secret goings-on, information and misinformation leading up to the Normandy invasion and how the Germans were kept guessing at the actual invasion site.
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0 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Double Cross July 19 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I can't really review this as it is a Christmas present I bought for my husband but I'm sure he will love it
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  372 reviews
177 of 181 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeping the Germans in the dark...and pigeons in the air. June 1 2012
By Jill Meyer - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Before you begin reading this book, take a look at the map at the very front. It's a map of northern France and southern England. Notice how close the cities of Dover and Calais are; the sea distance is about 21 miles. Meanwhile, continue west to the widest gap between France and England which is about 100 miles. That's the distance between Portsmouth, England and the five Normandy beaches. Those 100 miles were crossed by the American, British, and Canadian forces on June 6, 1944 - D-Day. Why the Allied forces chose to set the invasion on this particular plot of land in France, reachable after an all-night trip from England, is the topic of many other books about WW2. This book, "Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies" by Ben MacIntyre, is the story of how British intelligence worked to make the Germans think the imminent invasion would occur at Calais, rather than Normandy.

By 1942 the smart money in Germany was on an invasion on the European continent in France or Scandinavia by Allied forces. It was thought to be both inevitable and somewhat imminent. The time factor was based on many things, including build-up of invasion forces, the war effort in other European theater sites, and, of course, the geography of France. Just looking at a map shows the shortest distance was from Dover in Kent to Calais - as I wrote before, about 21 miles. Hitler and the German High Command were expecting the invasion in that area, and had mined the beaches and inner area in preparation for repelling an invasion. There were many troops stationed in the area, too. But, the Germans also mined and prepared the Normandy beaches with the same mines and hill top fortifications, though not as many as in Calais and they also had fewer troops stationed in Normandy.

British intelligence - MI5 (national) and MI6 (international) were cooperating in controlling German spies inside the UK. The "idea" of spies - both homegrown and dropped in - was much worse than the truth of the matter. Britain actually had captured and either turned or executed all the spies who had been dropped in by air or had landed by sea. These German "spies" tended to be a dismal lot of dullards who ineptly gave themselves away by various means to the Brits who would literally stumble upon them. But a few of the spies could be used to broadcast back to Germany what their British controls ordered them to say.

Another group of spies were individuals - in this case, French, Polish, Spanish, and Peruvian(!) - who had come to British embassies in Lisbon and Madrid and offered their services to the Allied war effort. Their reasons ranged from mercenary (nearly everyone's) to patriotic (the Polish man who had set up a spy network in France that had been broken up by the Germans before he volunteered to help the Brits). Most were double crossing the Germans who also handled them. With this patched together network, based in London, Madrid, and Lisbon, British intelligence was able to hone the message their new agents were sending back to Germany. Honing the message to throw the Germans off the true site of the inevitable invasion, from Normandy to Calais and to the timing of the invasion. Using fake letters, some "real" but not important bits of intel, and even the "sighting" of British General Montgomery in Gibraltar, by using an actor to play Montgomery. If "Monty" was in Gibraltar in late May, then how could he possibly be working on the upcoming invasion?

Ben MacIntyre - who also wrote an excellent book a couple of years ago called "Operation Mincemeat" about the attempt to throw German intelligence off the prospective Allied invasion of Sicily - returns here with a sometimes humorous, but always serous, story of the spies, the spy masters, the actors, the military staffs, who together pulled off the successful trick of getting the Germans to consider the Pas de Calais as the ONLY invasion area, even after the main invasion had begun on June 6th! Still expecting the invasion to take place to the east, many German troops were kept back from that area, joining too late their fellow soldiers repelling the Allied forces at Normandy to the west. MacIntyre's book on D-Day and the spies and agents who kept the secret and helped focus German intelligence on other places and other times, is filled with characters usually found only in fiction. I suppose it takes a certain individual with the flair and guts to pull of a double crossing spying job, and the five or so foreign spies who were on Sir John Masterman's "Double Cross" system payroll were an intriguing lot. This book is a must-read for the WW2 buff. (By the way, his writing on pigeons - both German and Allied - being used in spying, is a hoot.)
65 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Double Cross April 13 2012
By S Riaz - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Anyone who has read anything by Ben Macintyre before, including the excellent Operation Mincemeat and Agent Zigzag will know that they are in for a treat. He is a wonderful storyteller and, in this book, he is on territory he seems to understand brilliantly and relish. The Allied military planners were working on the the great assault on Nazi Occupied Europe - the D-Day invasion would decide the outcome of the war. In order to convince the Germans that the invasion was coming where it was not actually coming, and not coming in the place where it was actually coming, a huge amount of effort was expended. There were dummy planes, tanks and even dummy armies in place to fool the Germans. There were even pigeons masquerading as German carrier pigeons (lots more on pigeons in the book - they play a larger part than you might imagine!). There were impersonators to convince the Germans that military leaders were elsewhere. Counterfeit generals led non-existent armies. Radio operators created a barrage of fake signals. Finally, there were spies. The Allies had a harder task than it appears in hindsight, knowing that it succeeded, as the target range for a cross-Channel invasion was small. There were only a handful of suitable spots for a massed landing and it was important that the entire might of the German forces were not waiting when the Allies landed.

Tar Robertson created a bodyguard of liars - the "Double Cross System" coordinated by the Twenty (XX) Committee. They specialised in turning German spies into double agents. Every single German agent in Britain was under his control, enabling huge and co-ordinated lies to be told. The task of Operation Fortitude was to bottle up German troops in the Pas de Calais and keep them there - this ability depended on Robertson's spies. These included a bisexual Peruvian playgirl, a tiny Polish fighter pilot, a mercurial Frenchwoman who adored her dog, a Serbian seducer and an eccentric Spaniard with marital problems. These spies never met, but together they created false trails, gave false information and often created totally false networks of sub-spies, including a group of entirely fictional Welsh fascists - all of which the Germans swallowed completely. In some cases, very extensive lies were not even noticed by the Germans, whereas the Allies had much confidential information (courtesy of Bletchly Park) even before the Germans themselves were aware of it. It is astounding to realise the control the Allies had over information sent to the Germans and the inventive ways to which this was put to use.

This then is a great book of subterfuge, downright lies, great ingenuity and often, great courage, for no reward other than a belief in freedom. Many of these individuals had families threatened by the Germans, at least one person connected to the group was arrested, and there was always the risk of being discovered which would undoubtedly have led to many more deaths of Allied troops when D-Day arrived. Nobody could tell this story as Ben Macintyre does, with dry humour, great understatement and a great deal of respect for his subjects.
59 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction, And Sometimes Much Funnier May 30 2012
By John D. Cofield - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I used to think all those spy novels and movies were wildly exagerrated and that crazy stunts and bizarrely convoluted plotting didn't go on in real life. That was before I started reading Ben Macintyre's histories of espionage performed by the British during World War II, including Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat among others. Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies, is Macintyre's latest offering and his best yet. Just imagine the most implausible twists and turns in a spy novel, then rest assured that something much weirder actually did take place during the World War II years.

In the early 1940s Britain's situation looked pretty desperate as she faced a triumphant Third Reich. Fortunately, along with all the pluck and perseverance we know the British people showed in "their finest hour" they also had a team of highly intelligent, extremely imaginative and creative, not to mention downright devious, men and women hard at work in MI5 and MI6. Their job was to identify German spies within Great Britain, turn them if possible into double agents, and then use them to mislead the Germans as to Allied intentions.

The stories Macintyre relates are fascinating. At one point the British actually had the Abwehr (German military intelligence) funding British efforts to undermine Germany's spy networks! Some of Germany's most trusted and apparently reliable spies in Britain were actually feeding disinformation to them! Eventually the British efforts spread to the US, where the FBI's anti-espionage efforts were laughably feeble in comparison. The most important task of the British spymasters was to keep the Germans confused and off balance as to the date and location of the expected Allied invasion of Western Europe, and they succeeded dramatically, assisted by their double agents, who included some of the most colorful characters ever encountered outside of a Bond movie.

Macintyre's many anecdotes make for riveting reading and often caused me to laugh aloud, particularly when I read of the roles played by homing pigeons and a pampered little dog in the Allied war effort. I cannot recommend Double Cross too highly, and next time I hear about mysterious events and surprising turns anywhere in the world I'll wonder whether the heirs of those crafty men and women are still at work today.
68 of 75 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superficial overview June 16 2012
By Andy in Washington - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
The deception efforts of D-Day are one of my favorite parts of modern history, and I have read a good amount of the published works on the subject. I believe this story is a very complex and multi-faceted tale, and not really a good candidate for a 300 page book.

The Good Stuff

* The material the book does present is fascinating. The narrative is limited to the story of about a half-dozen agents, and they are a marvelous assortment of characters.

* The fates of thousands of men are dependent upon the most unlikely turns of events. A little white dog, the moral turpitude of a confirmed playboy, people with no loyalty to anyone-all play a large part in this piece of history.

* The book is written in a fairly easy to read format, and the reader can easily get caught up in the story. The book jumps around a bit, and there is not a lot of background info provided, so some basic knowledge of WWII era history will be helpful.

The Not-So-Good Stuff

* The story of the allied deception around D-Day is an incredibly complex tale. All of the agents are suspect, many have multiple and poorly understood agendas. The politics of the German Army and Intelligence services come into play (something hinted at in the book, but not developed), as do considerations about French civilian and Resistance casualties. Inter-Allied conflicts, strong personalities of leaders, and countless other factors.

In short, the deception resembles a 4-dimensional game of chess played in a house of mirrors, with chess pieces that randomly disappear and reappear. Unfortunately, Macintyre tries to cover this as a simple, linear story told from an "overview" level. This strategy doesn't work well, because the devil in this story is truly in the details, and nothing about it is at all straightforward or open to simplification.

* Some of the editing/fact checking seems suspect. For example on page 288, the book states that "What Hitler did not know, and never knew was that Alexis von Roenne and Roger Michael were running their own deception operation." On page 289, we come to the statement "...because Hitler, when he discovered von Roenne's disloyalty, had him murdered." I can not reconcile these two statements.

The book is enjoyable for what it is, but it leaves out so much as to miss the true plot of the D-Day deception. I believe any history of this deception campaign needs to be a lot more detailed, and therefore a lot longer than the length of this book.
While there is some new material in this book, for anyone truly interested in the topic, I would suggest Bodyguard of Lies: The Extraordinary True Story Behind D-Day. It is quite a bit longer, and a little bit of a dry read, but has an excellent level of detail.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Double Cross - A Contrary View Aug. 17 2012
By Carlos Luria - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a great collection of stories, but its premise is flawed. It suggests that the Abwehr, Nazi Germany's Foreign Intelligence Service - and particularly its leader, Adm. Wilhelm Canaris - were led down the garden path by the real and imaginary agents that Britain's Secret Service created.

That is a bit simplistic.

Adm. Canaris was a brilliant, patriotic German who hated Hitler and all that the Nazis stood for. As head of Germany's intelligence service, he worked tirelessly to short-circuit, mislead and undermine Hitler's plans. The Israelis, who know a thing or two about Intelligence and could never be accused of being apologists for the Nazis, regard Canaris as a hero and honor him for his work. It is a testament to his brilliance that he was able to negotiate the tricky straights of seeming to support the Nazi regime while working so assiduously to mislead it. His opposition to Hitler dated back to 1933 and his 'treachery' was only discovered in 1945. He paid with his life for his deception. The Jewish Virtual Library, a division of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, covers Adm. Canaris' anti-Nazi activities in some detail.

Canaris met secretly with Spain's leader, Gen. Franco, and persuaded him to keep Hitler from using Spain as staging area for attacking Gibraltar. He exaggerated the Swiss' ability to resist attack, and deterred Hitler from incorporating Switzerland (and all of the foreign exchange, stored in its vaults), into his `New Europe.' He met secretly with Gen. Stuart Menzies, chief of Britain's Secret Service, and Gen. William J. Donovan, head of America's OSS, and deliberately misled Hitler into believing the Americans would not land at Anzio. Along with Germany's brilliant Gen. Rommel and other high-ranking Wehrmacht officers, Canaris was a co-conspirator in the 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler. That ultimately led to his undoing: on Apr 9th, 1945 Wilhelm Canaris, along with many of those conspirators, were hanged at the Flossenburg Concentration Camp and their bodies were left to rot. Two weeks later the Camp was liberated by the Americans.

Canaris organized a trusted group of like-minded officers in the Abwehr to mislead Hitler and to undermine his strategies. Was he really duped, as the book implies, or was he a willing collaborator who `validated' the false intelligence Britain's Double Cross Committee generated and passed it along to Hitler? In light of his documented opposition to the Nazi regime, the latter is far more likely.

The writer of this review is a retired CIA officer and author of the memoir, `Skating on the Edge.'
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