If you go to read this with James Bond-type expectations, you will be sorely disappointed. Although Agent Zigzag does feature undercover action scenes, they aren't of the type you'd find in your typical spy movie. In other words, no evil masterminds will be dispatched before your very eyes, but there are massive operations of ingenious deception, so I wasn't disappointed. Think less James Bond and more Ocean's Eleven, but again with a bit less action- it's history, not Hollywood.
The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'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. Based on recently declassified files, Agent Zigzag tells Chapman’s full story for the first time. It’s a gripping tale of loyalty, love, treachery, espionage, and the thin and shifting line between fidelity and betrayal.'
Halfway through this I was determined not to stop reading, but it became difficult for me to read on, as you're introduced to many characters who get an entire paragraph of description, despite only being active characters in the book at one point/scene. I must say I really wouldn't like to be a biographer, since you are writing about real people and might feel pressure to include everyone in order to get it just right and do people forgotten to history justice by telling their stories, but at the same time... I likely skipped their fifty written words of fame, anyhow. They may have made up the machine that took down an evil mastermind, but I bought this to read Eddie Chapman's story, not theirs. Luckily, with some strategic skimming on my part, I was able to get past the minute details that clogged up the pace of this biography.
Throughout the book, your impressions of Eddie Chapman will change, sometimes by the chapter. Even though the author does his best to capture him from the flesh into print, you are still left with nagging questions as to who he really is beneath the charismatic exterior. In part, this is the magic ingredient to the book: if it were about anyone else, I would've likely given up halfway through. Eddie Chapman is the secret to the success of this biography, as it should be with any biography.
Agent Zigzag is a biography heavy on the history side and rife with detail, but one which nonetheless compels you to finish it. Those disinterested in books with excess detail I would warn off, as this book has a lot of it, even though the story finishes with flair. If you like histories on World War II and want to dabble in biographies, this would be an ideal book for you.
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent biography that has its dry spells.
Content: Ages 16+ for a womanizing conman who has a penchant for getting into trouble (violence and slight sexual misconduct- no rape).
Page Count: 384 pages