Top critical review
Good but not great.
Reviewed in the United States on May 2, 2015
A good but not a great book about spies and partisans in Italy towards the end of WWII. O'Donnell worked with some primary sources and brought to life some very old and mostly dead heroic figures. Our admiration for the spies has to be very high as their energy, skill and bravery deserves superlatives. But, the book itself often had difficulty hanging together as a story and though we know there had to be elements of boredom for long stretches in what these men did, and that should be related, we shouldn't feel bored, and sometimes I did. In fairness, some of that might be because the heroes were lost to us or very old and it is hard to patch the stories together. However, having read the works of some other authors, it can be done in a very riveting fashion. The best parts for me were the descriptions of the local partisans and some heroic local women, though at times there seemed to be a sameness about them that is unlikely in real life.
O'Donnell is a combat vet who specializes in bringing us oral histories of soldiers over the last century and he also deserves kudos for that. There may be more use in it in the long run than his own writing provides. I've heard him speak and was very impressed with him personally and what he tries to do on his website, so that writing a less than sterling review is a little painful (like, I hope he doesn't read this). However, if we aren't going to write honest reviews, what is the point of doing this? I can't give the book a higher rating. Certainly its worthwhile, the more so the more you enjoy reading about WWII, but it will not likely bowl you over.