Double-cross promises a long scorecard of unusual characters in a trying–and dangerous–game, spying for Britain in WW2. It delivers, both in the selection of outsized personalities and a build of the stories which is clear and engaging. Ben proceeds at a steady pace right to the end of the book, lingering on each personality and their adventures in turn. The individuals involved are shown in the context of an overall arc, the grand deception that led to D-Day. Although I had read much of that time, from diverse histories such as The Rommel Papers, I never knew what a part the British intelligence service played in that success of the Allied landing. Also, I found the denouement quite interesting and fulfilling, as MacIntyre presents the fates of his subjects in detail.
Although I appreciate MacIntyre’s focus, I would have liked more texture about the British minders. There is less about the spymasters than the spies; more detail of the MI5 crew’s day-to-day lives, and indeed some description of setting would have been welcomed. Did they all work in the same building? Share coffee? Did they have class differences or were they a homogenous group? But that would have made the book longer. We have to assume MacIntyre provided as much detail as he had.