Marquis’ (Blackbeard, 2018, etc.) third series entry centers on the lives and adventures of spies operating in concert with the Norwegian resistance during the Nazi occupation.
This latest novel concentrates on a colorful, real-life figure known as “Agent ZigZag”—British spy Eddie Chapman, a suave, charismatic figure who seems to have stepped out of the pages of a Graham Greene novel; he had many clandestine adventures spying on the Germans during World War II. The author enhances the tale of Agent ZigZag with stories, drawn from recently unearthed documents, detailing the lesser-known adventures of fellow resistance members Dagmar Lahlum and Annemarie Breien, showing the double agents’ complicated day-to-day dealings as Nazi oppression in their country steadily intensifies. Marquis has clearly done a prodigious amount of research, which results in a rather dense work. However, he matches it with a good sense of dramatic pacing that keeps the multifaceted plot bubbling along despite copious amounts of exposition in each chapter; the story is full of hairsbreadth escapes, double-crosses, and desperate bravery. (Marquis also elaborates on the historical record by having his spies all know one another, although the documentary evidence that they actually did is inconclusive.) The strong narrative momentum is enhanced by the author’s occasional penchant for arch melodrama: “And with that [Stephan Albert Heinrich] von Gröning fingered his own Iron Cross at his throat—and smiled the smile of a true German spymaster.” He ends the book with a formidably lengthy afterword that lays out the true history in precise detail, and the list of cited sources is equally generous. As a result, this is not only a skillful, rapid-fire historical spy thriller, but also a fine source on one of the least-known and most heroic chapters of the Second World War.
A complex but lively thriller that brings to mind the work of Len Deighton.