Welcome to another edition of Staff Picks—we’re excited to have some new contributers in the Readers’ Nook today! Staff picks are always popular; really, who doesn’t like getting a personal reading recommendation? Whether you like your spies fictional or true to life, you can be confident in trying any of these hand-picked books!
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre
This book was recommended by Maylin Scott of Random House of Canada during the “Dewey Divas” presentation for Spring/Summer 2012. The book talk and review for Double Cross was so well done that I had to put my hands on it. An admirer of spy fiction of the likes of Ken Follet’s Eye of the Needle, Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Identity, and Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz, this time round, I chose to pick up this Non Fiction true spy story with permutations of war and the intricately interwoven network of World War II spies, who formed the Double Cross British espionage system.
Double Cross was an enthralling read, a stunning display of military accomplishment and a masterpiece of trickery. The story is encountered and told from the perspective of the key individuals in the Double Cross System: 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 the Double Cross’s nucleus. The key to the plan is to deceive and to throw off the Germans and launch an assault at Normandy on June 6th 1944 by convincing them that the impending attack would come either at Pas de Calais or in Norway. The game plan was one of careful manipulation of information on the part of the five double agents, each feeding misinformation back to their German handlers.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
This Young Adult novel is set during World War II and tells the story of two young women, ‘Verity’ and Maddie. The book begins in the words of 'Verity', a British spy who has been captured in Nazi-occupied France after the plane transporting her crashes. She has decided to give up the details of her mission in the hopes that her captors will grant her lighter torture and a delayed death sentence. As 'Verity' begins to reveal these details, she tells us her story and the story of her friend Maddie, the pilot of the plane that crashed. Her narrative reveals the remarkable friendship formed by two young women in one of the dark periods of the world’s history; it is also a narrative that isn’t always what it seems.
What particularly struck me about this book were its historical setting—it’s great for anyone who likes historical fiction—its strong, smart writing, and its beautiful depiction of a friendship. It’s a book that would appeal to both teens and adults, but it’s not a book for someone looking for a quick, light read. It’s a book that will make you laugh, gasp, think, and cry.
More spy/World War II stories:
The Spymasters by W. E. B. Griffin
Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak