"In fiction it would be described as improbable," is how one MI5 agent described the case of Eddie Chapman, a criminal turned spy whose wartime story has only begun to emerge in the last few years. It sounds like a typical exaggeration of the kind people make all the time but it really isn't. Imprisoned in Jersey in early 1939, career criminal and womaniser Eddie Chapman found himself transferred to a Nazi prison after the island was invaded by the Germans. He negotiated his freedom by offering to return to Britain as a spy. After training in France, Chapman was sent to Britain late in 1942. He promptly gave himself up and offered to go back to Germany as a British spy.
Whose side was he really on? Was he motivated by money, patriotism or an addiction to danger? The mysteries that surround Eddie Chapman serve only to add depth to this incredible story.
Chapman is a complex character - too complex and dishonest for Macintyre to really get under his skin - but the author has done an exceptional job of bringing him to life and discovering how he was seen by his spymasters and comrades.
Meticulously piecing together records from Britain and Germany, newspaper reports and testimony from those who knew him, Macintyre unravels this extraordinary tale in a compelling fashion. Sometimes he will pack a character's whole history into a few paragraphs and at others he reveals details only when he needs too, adding an element of suspense.
It's an astonishing story. Chapman isn't the only fascinating character we meet - the spies on both sides of the conflict are intriguingly eccentric figures and Macintyre delights in introducing us to them.
This is a unique story and a really good read.