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The Hornet's Sting: The Amazing Untold…
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The Hornet's Sting: The Amazing Untold Story of World War II Spy…

by Mark Ryan

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Recently added byJLHeim, private library, gaialover, Dureo, Remer_Library_MN, gb24, dg2books, DHill68, AWW2RT, NewsieQ
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I picked this book up during a kindle sale because I’m a big WWII buff and who doesn’t love real life spy stories? I thought it was a sure bet, but apparently even a true life spy story can be written in a dull manner.

It’s impossible to read the book without learning a lot. For instance, I had no idea that Britain had two different spy agencies that were battling each other for control of spying missions. Similarly, I didn’t know it was common practice to take people who had escaped from behind Nazi lines, train them as spies, then re-drop them back in their home countries. I also loved learning more about those from occupied countries who escaped and fought in other militaries against the Nazis. In spite of learning all of these new to me facts about WWII spying, the book manages to be dull. Ryan tends to wander off on side diatribes about the intricacies of red tape and paperwork instead of focusing in on the more action-oriented, interesting bits of the spying. He also spends a lot of time giving the full name of every single person even vaguely connected with Tommy and the spying, even if they really have no impact on the story. The book could really have used a bit more streamlining and focus to keep the energy up. Just because it’s nonfiction doesn’t mean it can, or should, meander.

Tommy Sneum is hard to root for. He’s not a likable guy. He abandons his wife and infant daughter to go be a spy. That could definitely be seen as valiant, however, he expresses consistent distate for his wife and a lack of concern or care for even knowing his daughter. He certainly comes across in the book as a guy just after adventure, not so much a man looking to protect his country or his family. Similarly, Tommy express arrogance when it comes to women, claiming that they essentially would go sleep with him at the drop of a hat or a snap of his fingers. He does not come across as seeing women as people but rather as recreational objects. One story that really demonstrates this is he tells the author that he had a threesome once, and he was upset that the women dared to pay attention to each other at all, rather than 100% to him. Sex is supposed to be about people giving to each other, not about one person being worshiped. His general attitude towards women gave me a squicky feeling throughout the book. Of course, most people are not all bad or good. Tommy is no exception. He expresses a real openness toward a male colleague who was known to be bi. He refuses to view all Germans as evil monsters and insists, to those high up in the British resistance no less, that most Germans are just caught up in Hitler’s war machine. Of course, these even-handed views are almost universally held of men.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is Ryan’s investigation into the accusations that Sneum was a double-agent.Ryan did a lot of investigative work and lays out all the details that he believes clears Sneum’s name. Seeing how Sneum and his methods were misunderstood by the British and also how having two different spy agencies working led to misunderstandings was truly fascinating, and I’m glad Ryan took the time to work at finding the truth.

Overall, this is a rather slow-paced work of historic nonfiction that focuses in on the red tape and organizational aspects of spying more than exciting adventures. It does good work in determining that Sneum was not a double agent in WWII. Sneum’s womanizing can be a bit tedious at times, although his even-handed perspective on the German people is good to see. Recommended to those interested in the organizational aspects of spying in WWII, including very minute details.

Check out my full review: http://wp.me/pp7vL-15E ( )
  gaialover | Feb 20, 2014 |
During World War II, Thomas Sneum was a young Danish flyer who, when he was grounded after the Germans occupied Denmark, began gathering intelligence for Britain – on his own. His goal was to get to England and fly for the Royal Air Force against the Germans. He found his way to England but, rather than flying, wound up parachuting back into Denmark as a spy for England.

What Tommy didn’t know – and what the author details brilliantly -- is that he was in the middle of a turf war between two British spy agencies. He was also saddled with an inept and cowardly partner while in Denmark – a partner who became a danger to Tommy and others.

The author based his research on many, many interviews with Tommy Sneum before his death in 2007. But Mark Ryan wasn’t content to take everything the aging spy told him at face value, but sought out independent confirmation of Tommy’s story. That included interviews with others who were privy to the information – and documents from those years.

What Mark Ryan has created is a riveting account of one of the most colorful characters – real or imagined – readers are likely to encounter. Sadly, Tommy didn’t get the recognition he deserved while he was alive. But the author has created a book that will make sure his exploits are known and appreciated long after Tommy’s death. A riveting read. ( )
  NewsieQ | May 20, 2013 |
The history of Thomas Sneum in World War II Denmark captivating, - in the words of historian Jørgen Hæstrup 'standing all by itself'. Sneum was among the very first spies in Denmark after the German occupation in 1940, perhaps the first. Taking the initiative himself when most of the rest of Denmark took a business as usual stand against the Germans. Given the effort of the Sneum it is strange that the story has not been told more widely before. Jørgen Hæstrup doctoral thesis on the subject of early Danish resistance is almost embarrassingly short in this aspect, failing to mention Sneum's boss in Britain. Perhaps the clandestine operation of SIS may excuse Hæstrup. A few articles have appeared, but Michael Ryan's book is the first attempt on a thorough account of the Sneum's story. Though another Dane of the time, Anders Lassen, has been hailed with statues, the story of Sneum is sad, lamentably full of misunderstandings and outright conflicts, in Denmark, Sweden and Britain. Perhaps Sneum's espionage was too early and energetic in comparisons with latecomers and the dull Danish military. In R.V. Jones wry words 'the men who go first are rarely popular with those who wait for the wind to blow'. However, Ryan's account is not a weeping story. Sneum appears as jamesbondish and in terms of women and his own personal security lives as with no tomorrow. ( )
  fnielsen | Feb 28, 2010 |
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Traces the career of the late Danish-born spy, drawing on extensive interviews to recount some of his more dramatic missions, his two escapes from Denmark, and his imprisonment in England as a suspected double agent.

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