What happens when "a Peruvian playgirl, a tiny Polish fighter pilot, a mercurial Frenchwoman, a Serbian seducer and a deeply eccentric Spaniard" come together to work for MI5? Only one of the most important deceptions in modern history. Ben Macintyre's latest book chronicles the machinery of the pivotal Operation Fortitude, a massive undertaking in misinformation and misdirection that led the Germans to believe that the Pas de Calais, not Normandy, would be the beachhead from where the Allies would launch their European invasion. Macintyre documents the circuitous and often borderline-absurd process by which MI5 began acquiring double agents, and then how these double agents were gradually used to deliver deliberate pieces of misinformation in order to fool the Abwehr into preparing for an attack on Norway and the Pas de Calais.
The draw to Double Cross is seeing the massive role these unsung heroes played in D-Day, but the satisfaction comes from the small details. An Abwehr agent too obsessed with his love life to notice he was being led up the garden path; lessons on using secret ink; bizarre pigeon infiltration plots; an entire fake army constructed of rubber tanks and planes. While detailed and thorough, the book does take a while to build up to the actual events of Operation Fortitude, and its compartmentalized view of WWII sometimes left me wanting more--more about the German side of events and more about the military actions concurrent to the traps laid by the Double Cross team. But overall, Double Cross is fun, well-paced and informative, likely to appeal to fans of Stephen Ambrose and Mitchell Zuckoff, and to fans of narrative non-fiction in general.