Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Book Review: 'Operation Mincemeat' by Ben Macintyre


"The sea gave up the dead who were in it," -- Revelation 20:13 (NKJV)

In spy novels, genius plans come together quickly and are implemented with only a few glitches that the heroes quickly overcome. Oh, that it was that easy.

If you have never read the story about how British Intelligence fooled Hitler into shifting his forces away from Sicily before the invasion there, I can highly recommend this account, which is informed by more detailed sources than earlier versions. If you have already read extensively about the subject, you may not find enough new here to reward your time and attention.

I knew about the story from my college studies about World War II. When I realized that this book drew on many formerly secret papers about the events, I knew it was time for an enjoyable read. I wasn't disappointed.

The best parts of the book come in exploring and explaining what went wrong . . . and how the thinly disguised deception worked in spite of its flaws and errors. I don't recall a better book concerning how those who receive intelligence reports can mislead themselves into making the wrong steps. I'm reminded of the reports that eventually came out about how Stalin continually dismissed the remarkable intelligence he was receiving from British and American spies.

If you like human interest, you'll enjoy learning about the details of how such deceptions were thought up and developed. If you don't really care about the details of who did what and when, you'll think this book is too detailed in telling how the plot was hatched and executed in London and Spain.

As a true story, it has more emotional resonance than any spy thriller I've read. I had a smile on my face on most pages. I believe that you will, too.

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive!" -- Sir Walter Scott






Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Donald Mitchell. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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