Examining the espionage and intelligence stories in World War II on a global basis, bringing together the British, American, German, Russian and Japanese histories.
In The Secret War, Max Hastings examines the espionage and intelligence machines of all sides in World War II and the impact of spies, code breakers and partisan operations on events.
Written on a global scale, the book brings together accounts from British, American, German, Russian and Japanese sources to tell the story of a secret war waged unceasingly by men and women often far from the battlefields but whose actions profoundly influenced the outcome.
Returning to the Second World War for the first time since his best-selling All Hell Let Loose, Hastings weaves into a 'big picture' framework the human stories of spies and intelligence officers who served their respective masters.
Told through a series of snapshots of key moments, the book looks closely at Soviet espionage operations which dwarfed those of every other belligerent in scale as well as the code-breaking operation at Bletchley Park - the greatest intelligence achievement of the conflict - with many more surprising and unfamiliar tales of treachery, deception, betrayal and incompetence by spies of Axis, Allied or indeterminate loyalty.
"A work of staggering scope and erudition, narrated with supreme fluency and insight, it is unquestionably the best single-volume history of the war ever written...he writes with a wonderfully clear, unsentimental eye...and has a terrific grasp of the grand sweep and military strategy.... But what makes his book a compelling read are the human stories...at the end of this gruesome, chilling but quite magnificent book, you never doubt that the war was worth fighting." (Sunday Times)
"No other general history of the war amalgamates so successfully the gut-wrenching personal details and the essential strategic arguments. Melding the worm's eye view and the big picture is a difficult trick to pull of - but Hastings has triumphed." (The Times)
"Majestic...it is impossible to emerge without a sense of the sheer scale of human tragedy.... To gather all these anecdotes together is a task in itself, but to assemble them in a way that makes sense is something entirely different.... Hastings shapes all these stories, almost miraculously, into a single coherent narrative." (Daily Telegraph)
"In this massive work, the crowning volume of the 10 impressive books he has written about the Second World War, Sir Max Hastings spares us nothing in portraying the sheer bloody savagery of the worst war that the world has yet seen...this magnificent book...is hypnotically readable from the first page to the last." (Sunday Telegraph)
"A fast-moving, highly readable survey of the entire war.... Hastings combines a mastery of the military events with invariably sound judgment and a sharp eye for unusual telling detail...this is military history at its most gripping. Of all Max Hastings's valuable books, this is possibly his best - a veritable tour de force." (Evening Standard)
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Lacking in excitement
Excellent writing, poor audiobook narration
As to be expected, extremely well-researched and written by Max Hastings. I wish I had bought the paper copy instead of an audiobook, though, as the narrator seems to be reciting the words without paying much attention to the material he is reading. Consequently, there are multiple mispronunciations and incorrect emphases - I had to re-listen in several places to make sense of what was being said.