The Secret War: Spies, Codes & Guerrillas 1939–45 by Max Hastings - review by David Stafford

David Stafford

The Decryption Factor

The Secret War: Spies, Codes & Guerrillas 1939–45


William Collins 612pp £30 order from our bookshop

What’s not to like about a Max Hastings book? He’s a reliable brand after all. Once every year or so a new one hits the bookstores, a meaty five hundred pages or more, piled high on the front tables, wrapped in an embossed cover and bearing such eye-catching testimonies as ‘masterly’ or ‘magnificent’ and with dramatic titles like Armageddon, Nemesis or All Hell Let Loose. Last year’s contribution to the torrent of books marking the centenary of the First World War was Catastrophe. Now we have Hastings on the history of spies, codes and guerrillas during the Second World War. After the others, the title is disappointingly prosaic.

But not the contents. It’s trademark Hastings: ambitious, bold, opinionated, bristling with vivid stories and vignettes and never, ever boring. All the well-honed skills of the experienced and energetic journalist are laid out on display. It’s been said that he approaches the computer keyboard with the élan of a concert

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