Book Log: April 25

I finished Demon Moon late on Monday. Of course I enjoyed it — I love the density of her stories. If you held a gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you the plot; I just went along for the ride.

After that, I chose something from the library stash: Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben Mcintyre. The book follows the story of Edward Chapman, who was a career criminal in the UK before the Second World War, and who became a double agent for the British during it. My sense of Chapman is that, more than anything, he was an adrenaline junkie, someone who always had to be doing, with some kind of plot brewing.

Captured by the Germans when they invaded the island of Jersey, he convinced them he could spy on Great Britain. The Abwehr trained him in all kinds of nefarious arts — mostly how to blow things up, using ordinary ingredients — and taught him to use a radio. They sent him to England to commit acts of sabotage — he had a “mission” but he also had the freedom to act in any way he saw fit.

The English were expecting him; they had broken the Abwehr’s codes without the Germans knowing, and had deciphered all the traffic about Chapman’s coming. Chapman was captured almost as soon as he arrived, and as quickly as he was caught, he offered to act as a double-agent. The English helped him fake an explosion at the factory where Mosquitos were built, and then sent him back to Germany, where he may or may not have confessed the truth to his German “handler”, a man he respected, even loved.

The book is well-written, in a very accessible manner. I was able to keep a very large cast of characters clear in my mind. The book also gave me a lot of food for thought in terms of characterization, since Chapman was so amazingly contradictory and complex. Somewhere in the book, Chapman is described as someone who would do what you wanted him to do…but he’d rob you while doing it and not feel the least guilt about it.

I finished Agent Zigzag on the 22nd, and wasn’t sure what to start next. Demon Night, the latest book in Brook’s Guardians series? The book I borrowed about Anna Anderson?

Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety? I might actually finish it if I start it — the last time I read it, years ago, I didn’t know what happened to everyone (Camille Desmoulins, his wife Lucile, Georges Jacques Danton…), so when I peeked ahead, it completely killed any desire I had to keep going.

In the end, I started Demon Night and have been reading it ever since. I wasn’t in the mood for the kind of attention and focus A Place of Greater Safety seemed it would demand — Demon Night demands attention but of a different kind.

Mood is such a huge part of reading for me that my one attempt to be a member of a book club foundered because, over and over again, I wasn’t in the mood to read that month’s book in the time available. Mood is also the downside of borrowing library books. If no one else has reserved a book I have out, I can keep it out for up to nine weeks…but there have been books I’ve had out for several nine-week periods and still never read them. I was just never in the mood.

Until next Friday… (or unless I feel a burning desire to talk about something I’ve read…)

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