Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review: Operation Mincemeat

I meant to read Operation Mincemeat when it first came out, but was only reminded to do so when I saw the obit for Jean Gerard Leigh.  Who was Jean Gerard Leigh, you ask?  She was a dead man's fiance.  Well, faux fiance.  All part of a plan of MI5 to trick the Germans into believing the Allies would invade Greece instead of Sicily.  How, you ask?  By placing a corpse with suggestive papers in the water off the coast of Spain and doing their darndest to convince them the were the genuine article.

This book is hilarious.  Of all the cockamamie schemes ever cooked up in wartime, this one certainly has to be in the top 5.  Not that I can name any of the other four, because they're probably all still classified.  But what with this crazy plan and this colorful cast of characters, I read this laughing at practically every page.

I mean, listen: You've got your hero, Ewan Montagu, who masterminded the plan and his Russian spy/table tennis enthusiast brother, Ivor.  You've got the coroner, Bentley Purchase, who procures a suitable corpse.  You've got a dashing submarine captain, Bill Jewell.  You've got Miss Leigh, aka "Pam."  You've got the near-sighted racecar driver who has to deliver the body to Scotland.  You've got your Spanish embassy absolutely riddled with double-crossers.  You've got your 1/8 Jewish head of the Abwehr in Spain who had better deliver the goods or be shipped off to a concentration camp.

And even though you know from the first that this completely absurd plan actually does work, it's still mind-boggling--MIND BOGGLING--that they were actually able to pull this thing off.

Ben MacIntyre sounds like he had a great time researching and writing this up.  Perhaps he tells you more about some of these people than you really need to know, but they're so interesting I can't blame him.  And the tale!  Well, it deserved to be told.  Read it and enjoy.

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