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The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

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The celebrated author of A Spy Among Friends and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Cold War-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union. If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB a The celebrated author of A Spy Among Friends and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Cold War-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union. If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation's communism as both criminal and philistine. He took his first posting for Russian intelligence in 1968 and eventually became the Soviet Union's top man in London, but from 1973 on he was secretly working for MI6. For nearly a decade, as the Cold War reached its twilight, Gordievsky helped the West turn the tables on the KGB, exposing Russian spies and helping to foil countless intelligence plots, as the Soviet leadership grew increasingly paranoid at the United States's nuclear first-strike capabilities and brought the world closer to the brink of war. Desperate to keep the circle of trust close, MI6 never revealed Gordievsky's name to its counterparts in the CIA, which in turn grew obsessed with figuring out the identity of Britain's obviously top-level source. Their obsession ultimately doomed Gordievsky: the CIA officer assigned to identify him was none other than Aldrich Ames, the man who would become infamous for secretly spying for the Soviets. Unfolding the delicious three-way gamesmanship between America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and culminating in the gripping cinematic beat-by-beat of Gordievsky's nail-biting escape from Moscow in 1985, Ben Macintyre's latest may be his best yet. Like the greatest novels of John le Carré, it brings readers deep into a world of treachery and betrayal, where the lines bleed between the personal and the professional, and one man's hatred of communism had the power to change the future of nations.


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The celebrated author of A Spy Among Friends and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Cold War-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union. If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB a The celebrated author of A Spy Among Friends and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Cold War-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union. If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation's communism as both criminal and philistine. He took his first posting for Russian intelligence in 1968 and eventually became the Soviet Union's top man in London, but from 1973 on he was secretly working for MI6. For nearly a decade, as the Cold War reached its twilight, Gordievsky helped the West turn the tables on the KGB, exposing Russian spies and helping to foil countless intelligence plots, as the Soviet leadership grew increasingly paranoid at the United States's nuclear first-strike capabilities and brought the world closer to the brink of war. Desperate to keep the circle of trust close, MI6 never revealed Gordievsky's name to its counterparts in the CIA, which in turn grew obsessed with figuring out the identity of Britain's obviously top-level source. Their obsession ultimately doomed Gordievsky: the CIA officer assigned to identify him was none other than Aldrich Ames, the man who would become infamous for secretly spying for the Soviets. Unfolding the delicious three-way gamesmanship between America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and culminating in the gripping cinematic beat-by-beat of Gordievsky's nail-biting escape from Moscow in 1985, Ben Macintyre's latest may be his best yet. Like the greatest novels of John le Carré, it brings readers deep into a world of treachery and betrayal, where the lines bleed between the personal and the professional, and one man's hatred of communism had the power to change the future of nations.

30 review for The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jaidee

    5 " superb, exciting, edge of your seat" stars !!! Mr. MacIntyre has written a superb and thrilling book about one of our foremost living spies. Mr. Oleg Gordievsky was Russian KGB that became an agent for M-16 in England and over the course of the Cold War was able to feed England important information that may have led not only to our world being safe from nuclear disaster but perhaps also to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The author was able to interview Mr. Gordievsky over several visit 5 " superb, exciting, edge of your seat" stars !!! Mr. MacIntyre has written a superb and thrilling book about one of our foremost living spies. Mr. Oleg Gordievsky was Russian KGB that became an agent for M-16 in England and over the course of the Cold War was able to feed England important information that may have led not only to our world being safe from nuclear disaster but perhaps also to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The author was able to interview Mr. Gordievsky over several visits as well as many other M-16, KGB, CIA and other European secret agents. He also read countless other source materials but was not privy to secret documents held by the superpowers. Mr. Gordievsky's two ex wives, colleagues, friends and enemies were also given a voice in this riveting and information packed book. This reader was enthralled, thrilled and riveted. Mr. MacIntyre has a supreme ability to write a true story with both a factual and compassionate touch injecting just enough humor about some of the antics and errors that occurred by various players along the way. I also loved Margaret Thatcher's involvement in this story and her admiration and support of this gentleman and who was known to her as Mr. Collins. Mr. Gordievsky greatly assisted her in improving Anglo-Russian relations. Do yourself a favor and pick this up for your favorite Uncle at Christmas but read it before you gift it. Shhhh I won't tell. Mr. Oleg Gordievsky

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Undoubtedly, relations between Russia and the UK are at their lowest for many years, which, perhaps, makes this book even more relevant. Ben Macintyre takes us back to the 1980’s and the Cold War, with his usual brand of, almost schoolboy, enthusiasm and ability to give the most important, political events, the human angle necessary to make you care about those involved. This, then, is the story of ‘Operation Pimlico;’ an emergency escape plan by which MI6 planned to remove Oleg Gordievsky, a KG Undoubtedly, relations between Russia and the UK are at their lowest for many years, which, perhaps, makes this book even more relevant. Ben Macintyre takes us back to the 1980’s and the Cold War, with his usual brand of, almost schoolboy, enthusiasm and ability to give the most important, political events, the human angle necessary to make you care about those involved. This, then, is the story of ‘Operation Pimlico;’ an emergency escape plan by which MI6 planned to remove Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB officer, and British spy, from Russia and spirit him away to safety in England. We begin with the biography of Gordievsky, the son of a KGB officer, who grew up all too aware of how those around him often lived a double life and whose fascination with foreign countries, led him to do his best to take up a posting abroad. When dissatisfaction and disillusionment, with the Soviet Union, led to him being flagged as a ‘person of interest,’ it was not long before the British made a move to recruit him. What follows is the fascinating tale of how the British managed to move their spy into better, and more useful, posts – even undertaking to do his daily work, when he was posted in London, so he could spend more time spying. However, when Gordievsky found himself recalled to Russia, and with a traitor about to reveal his identity, it was essential that the British rescue him – something that Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was keen that MI6 do their best to do, regardless of the danger. Of course, being an escape plan hatched by the British, this is less about spy planes and more about Safeway carrier bags, Kit-Kats and a baby’s dirty nappy… This is full of tension, with a great understanding of the world of espionage, as you would expect from Ben Macintyre, including the rather competitive alliance between the British and the Americans and the real human cost of Gordievsky’s decision to lead a double life. This audio edition was delightfully told by Ben Macintyre and it was a joy to have the author read his own book. I have never read a book by Mr Macintyre that I have no loved and, I am glad to say, this was no exception. ,

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    With the current state of affairs between Russian and the UK, this story is more relevant than ever, and I suspect it will always be of interest to those who enjoy this genre. Ben MacIntyre is a fantastic writer and knows exactly how to grab the reader and hold them in place from first page to last. I found this as compelling and thrilling as any fiction book would be. Accurate and meticulously researched, this is a book not to be missed. I will be sure to look out for any future work the author With the current state of affairs between Russian and the UK, this story is more relevant than ever, and I suspect it will always be of interest to those who enjoy this genre. Ben MacIntyre is a fantastic writer and knows exactly how to grab the reader and hold them in place from first page to last. I found this as compelling and thrilling as any fiction book would be. Accurate and meticulously researched, this is a book not to be missed. I will be sure to look out for any future work the author decides to publish as it is evident he is a very gifted writer. I have no hesitation in highly recommending this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Forsyth

    Macintyre's best yet! A truly staggering story told by a consummate storyteller. That being said, it's pretty clear that the book's sources are fairly biased towards Gordievsky, and while Macintyre does a good job noting where his sources are displaying overt nostalgia or actively misremembering motivations, there's not a strong voice to counteract the overall tone of the narrative SIS officers and agents are providing here. Still, that's not really why I read Ben Macintyre: I read him for the p Macintyre's best yet! A truly staggering story told by a consummate storyteller. That being said, it's pretty clear that the book's sources are fairly biased towards Gordievsky, and while Macintyre does a good job noting where his sources are displaying overt nostalgia or actively misremembering motivations, there's not a strong voice to counteract the overall tone of the narrative SIS officers and agents are providing here. Still, that's not really why I read Ben Macintyre: I read him for the pulse-pounding "you are there" writing, the amazing stranger-than-fiction details, and the brave actions of individuals in shaping the course of history. On all of those metrics, this book delivers and delivers and delivers. There were two moments that literally had me holding me breath here. The courage and intelligence of those involved in this story are truly inspiring. Not to be missed.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Burnett

    The Spy and the Traitor is the true tale of Oleg Gordievsky, a high-level KGB agent, who worked as a double agent for Great Britain and MI6. Gordievsky helped bring about the demise of the Soviet Union, and The Spy and the Traitor details his career and the story of how a CIA agent was almost his downfall. It is a fabulous, nail-biting read that flows like a fast-paced thriller especially as the author carefully unveils the details of Gordievsky’s exciting escape from Moscow in 1985. In an era w The Spy and the Traitor is the true tale of Oleg Gordievsky, a high-level KGB agent, who worked as a double agent for Great Britain and MI6. Gordievsky helped bring about the demise of the Soviet Union, and The Spy and the Traitor details his career and the story of how a CIA agent was almost his downfall. It is a fabulous, nail-biting read that flows like a fast-paced thriller especially as the author carefully unveils the details of Gordievsky’s exciting escape from Moscow in 1985. In an era where relations with Russia are sinking lower and lower, Macintyre’s tale hits close to home.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kevin M

    An exceptional read! Everything you could want from a spy story: descriptions of trade craft, code names, depictions of all the facets of being a spy, from the humdrum review and contact of low level targets to moments of pants-distressing terror. And all the more captivating for it all being true! The names have been changed, but the events spanning around two decades during the height of the Cold War are all very much non-fiction. Oleg Gordievsky, starting when merely a newly minted KGB man in C An exceptional read! Everything you could want from a spy story: descriptions of trade craft, code names, depictions of all the facets of being a spy, from the humdrum review and contact of low level targets to moments of pants-distressing terror. And all the more captivating for it all being true! The names have been changed, but the events spanning around two decades during the height of the Cold War are all very much non-fiction. Oleg Gordievsky, starting when merely a newly minted KGB man in Copenhagen, was approached by MI6 through Denmark's own security service. From there an astounding relationship blossoms, as Comrade Oleg rises to the rank of Colonel, and head of the KGB in London. Read this book if you love spy stories; read this book if you love finding out about little-known facets of international relations and Cold War history; read this book if you've ever wondered about what kind of character, and will power could propel a person through two decades of lying to everyone around him, colleagues and loved ones included, in order to survive and do what he thought of as the only moral choice available to him. Read. This. Book!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Harry Buckle

    Ben Macintyre is in the top ten of my all time favourite authors...although possibly that should say 'favourite reporters'. Because report is what he does...and he does it really well. Taking both well known and 'new to me' episodes and events of the past 100 years and retelling/reporting them in riveting style. Crimes, wars, politics, people, espionage- I just checked out his list of titles and I would or have, given all of them well deserved five star reviews. All well deserved for their metic Ben Macintyre is in the top ten of my all time favourite authors...although possibly that should say 'favourite reporters'. Because report is what he does...and he does it really well. Taking both well known and 'new to me' episodes and events of the past 100 years and retelling/reporting them in riveting style. Crimes, wars, politics, people, espionage- I just checked out his list of titles and I would or have, given all of them well deserved five star reviews. All well deserved for their meticulous attention to detail, and that detail, reported in really 'can't put it down style' but without the brash repetitive nonsense of today's modern TV documentaries, where the 'backstory/reasons we are here' get repeated each ten minutes- just in case we do have the attention span of the gnats the producers have assumed to their viewers. As it happens I didn't like this book- because it presented nothing new about what is, as it claims, reasonably justifiably 'The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War.' The story has been well told before - in great detail- particularly well by Gordon Corera. So for me Bens latest work is a real disappointment - the first in his folio-but it's more my fault, than his...as I have read so much on this matter already, researching other aspects of the event as an author myself. Hence me giving, a well deserved five star review to a book that disappointed...I really do recommend it and would urge you to also check out his other work...I eagerly await his next offering. I read the kindle version. The hard back cover design shown here is appalling...and is I suspect of the US edition...the European one (or possibly the softback) is way better. The publishers should be ashamed-I assume nepotism, or an amateur playing at the design game-and their meddling will cost him sales.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Ben Macintyre is John le Carré's literary heir. But his stories are real. His newest, and best, book perfectly captures the tedium of most spy work alleviated only the the heart-thumping terror of when things go wrong. And spies being human, things always go wrong in the most mundane of ways.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week: Ben Macintyre's thrilling new book tells the story of a KGB double agent and plunges us into the Cold War's underworld of espionage, duplicity and intrigue. Today, disaffection sets in for one of the KGB's newest recruits. Tim McInnerny reads Ben Macintyre's thrilling new history tells the breath taking story of a KGB double agent operating at the height of the Cold War. Passing countless secrets to his British spymasters at M16 over the course of a decade he u From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week: Ben Macintyre's thrilling new book tells the story of a KGB double agent and plunges us into the Cold War's underworld of espionage, duplicity and intrigue. Today, disaffection sets in for one of the KGB's newest recruits. Tim McInnerny reads Ben Macintyre's thrilling new history tells the breath taking story of a KGB double agent operating at the height of the Cold War. Passing countless secrets to his British spymasters at M16 over the course of a decade he undermined the Soviet Union's intelligence gathering machine from deep within. Eventually, he was betrayed and what followed was a sequence of events involving ingenuity, duplicity, and fearlessness. Abridged by Richard Hamilton Produced by Elizabeth Allard. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bk...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dumbledore11214

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The celebrated author of A Spy Among Friends and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Cold War-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union. If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation's communism The celebrated author of A Spy Among Friends and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Cold War-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union. If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation's communism as both criminal and philistine. He took his first posting for Russian intelligence in 1968 and eventually became the Soviet Union's top man in London, but from 1973 on he was secretly working for MI6. For nearly a decade, as the Cold War reached its twilight, Gordievsky helped the West turn the tables on the KGB, exposing Russian spies and helping to foil countless intelligence plots, as the Soviet leadership grew increasingly paranoid at the United States's nuclear first-strike capabilities and brought the world closer to the brink of war. Desperate to keep the circle of trust close, MI6 never revealed Gordievsky's name to its counterparts in the CIA, which in turn grew obsessed with figuring out the identity of Britain's obviously top-level source. Their obsession ultimately doomed Gordievsky: the CIA officer assigned to identify him was none other than Aldrich Ames, the man who would become infamous for secretly spying for the Soviets. Unfolding the delicious three-way gamesmanship between America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and culminating in the gripping cinematic beat-by-beat of Gordievsky's nail-biting escape from Moscow in 1985, Ben Macintyre's latest may be his best yet. Like the greatest novels of John le Carré, it brings readers deep into a world of treachery and betrayal, where the lines bleed between the personal and the professional, and one man's hatred of communism had the power to change the future of nations. Review: This was my first book by Ben Macintyre, but certainly not the last one. It was so well written. I know that this is a well known writer, but as I said this was my first introduction to his work and I was beyond impressed. And it is so true that real life spy dramas are often more interesting than the works of fiction. I vaguely remember when I was a teenager in the former Soviet Union during perestroika times reading about Oleg Gordievskiy - the former KGB who spied for British, but I have not read any detailed stories about his life and what he endured. I will be honest, I usually despise traitors, even if they betrayed totalitarian regime I left behind, but the spy who turned for the ideological reasons and who did so much to prevent a lot of horrible things happening has my utmost respect, especially after this book. This book starts when Gordievsky in 1985 is called back to Moscow allegedly to be confirmed at the highest position at the top of Soviet KGB residentura in London. At that point in time Gordievsky already spied for MI6 for many years and of course they considered the possibility that call back to Moscow may have been the sign that Gordievsky was betrayed, but after the long discussion and thought Gordievsky decides to go back. And the first chapter stops when he realizes that KGB may have visited his apartment. I am telling you, I looked in the end, I knew that he survived in real life ( even though I had no idea what he and people who helped to get him out from Moscow endured ), and I was still worried. We learn about his life, about him turning to spi for MI6, we get to meet the colorful cast of characters who worked for MI6, for KGB and some spies from other countries, but Gordievsky is the front and center of the book. The book is well sourced and clearly author had a lot of conversations with Gordievsky himself (whose location in England he still would not disclose - understandably so) and with other people and MI6 officers' real names are not disclosed either. If you think it was a crazy plan to smuggle the betrayed spy out of Soviet Union, it surely was. But if you think this was the plan impossible to carry out, read this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    A good non fiction book about the one spy who survived death by Aldrich Ames. Quite possibly the finest hour of the SIS in the Cold War, an example of how asset cultivation and handling is done right and how sometimes, even when the odds seem high, it's perfectly possible to bring one spy in from the cold.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Henri

    Truly spectacular! I never have read a single Ben Macintyre work but will surely aqcuire a few and get to them promptly. This was a staggeringly beautiful and prosaic page-turner. Non-Fiction that reads like your ordinary spy thriller but is indeed based on fact. I could not put it down for two days straight and sat engrossed till late at night both times. Highly recommended to anyone that likes a bit of history non-fiction but does not necessarily want to plunge into a heavily academic work - th Truly spectacular! I never have read a single Ben Macintyre work but will surely aqcuire a few and get to them promptly. This was a staggeringly beautiful and prosaic page-turner. Non-Fiction that reads like your ordinary spy thriller but is indeed based on fact. I could not put it down for two days straight and sat engrossed till late at night both times. Highly recommended to anyone that likes a bit of history non-fiction but does not necessarily want to plunge into a heavily academic work - this reads easily but is just as exctiting as any fiction work i have read this year. In fact this jumps all the way into the top 3 books i have read this year so far and the others i am still to read have a lot to show for themselves if they are to take the top spot away from this book. Well done to Ben Macintyre and i am looking forward to reading his other work.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. ** spoiler alert ** KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky’s story is as improbable as it is fascinating and even suspenseful despite knowing a bit about how it all turned out. This is one helluva complicated story. MacIntyre is the man for the job. Top-shelf research, synthesis and framework. The effort and brainpower that went into this is commendable. MacIntyre spoke with the protagonist spy, all of his MI6 handlers and helpers (who remain anonymous, to me anyway), and several former KGB involved. He cl ** spoiler alert ** KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky’s story is as improbable as it is fascinating and even suspenseful despite knowing a bit about how it all turned out. This is one helluva complicated story. MacIntyre is the man for the job. Top-shelf research, synthesis and framework. The effort and brainpower that went into this is commendable. MacIntyre spoke with the protagonist spy, all of his MI6 handlers and helpers (who remain anonymous, to me anyway), and several former KGB involved. He claims he did not have access to MI6 nor KGB files but he certainly scrutinized reams of documents. A must-read for anyone interested in espionage, including professionals. I had trouble putting it down. I’ve read “A Spy Among Friends” and “Double Cross” perhaps “Agent Mincemeat” next. MacIntyre thanks David Cornwell in his acknowledgements and runs a complimentary blurb from John le Carre on the book cover. How fun would it be to hang out with those two? I was gonna comment that it is so rare to enjoy history without qualms when the good guys transcend the bad guys. But then I remembered that Gordievsky’s family life and his family were trashed. They all suffered greatly for his successes. I hope they read the book and forgive him. Getting married for love and intentionally having children while a double agent is not the best idea. He could have stuck with his first wife of convenience. Alas, he’s a human being. He did what he did. I hope his daughters can at least visit him. Also, MI6 screwed up royally by ambiguously letting Gordievsky return to Moscow under a cloud of suspicion. This tragic blunder likely incentivized them all the more to extract him later. What Gordievsky did for MI6 in a nutshell “[H]e opened up the inner workings of the KGB at a pivotal juncture on history, revealing not just what Soviet intel was doing (and not doing), but what the Kremlin was thinking and planning, and in so doing transformed the way the West thought about the Soviet Union. He risked his life to betray his country, and made the world a little safer.” Offered the “single largest ‘operational download’ in MI6 history, an astonishing meticulous and comprehensive insight into the KGB: its past, present and future plans.” Taught us that “Andropov was serious when he insisted the US was planning to unleash nuclear war….” The US thought it was hyperbole. “Gordievsky’s accurate interpretation of Kremlin psychology in 1985 did not cause the collapse of the Soviet Union—but it probably helped.” MacIntyre vividly describes the different levels of help the KGB gets from Westerners, including, agents of influence or useful idiots. At the least Trump is an agent of influence for Putin and the FSB. He posits a friendly, or benign, version of Russia that is detrimental to our national security. Utterly transparent. Fun facts Aldrich Ames gave up Gordievsky to the KGB. MI6 disguised Gordievsky’s intel when he gave them something of high value for the CIA. Very few people inside MI6, fewer still in MI5, knew his identity. The CIA desperately wanted to know who he was, so they put Ames on the task of finding him out!!! He quickly shared his research with his KGB handler. Viktor Budanov, who led the [KGB] investigation [on Gordievsky], was appointed head of Directorate K [after he lost his man in Moscow!!!] and rose to the rank of general. After the collapse of communism, Budanov founded Elite Security. In 2017, it was announced that Elite had won a $2.8 million contract to guard the US Embassy in Moscow….” An execution order is still hanging over Gordievsky’s head. I suppose the Skripal poisoning was terrifying for him and his daughters. I did note some unnecessary repetitions and unclear wording. I do not understand how MacIntyre could know the thoughts of Gordievsky’s father and older brother, also KGB. Surmise, yes. State their thoughts, no. Either or both may have had doubts about the brutality of Bolshevism but kept them silent so as not to jeopardize themselves nor their family. Gordievsky’s brother drank himself to death at an early age. That could be perceived as a slow suicide by a thinking man with heavy doubts. The fifth star will not sacrificed from my rating.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Maine Colonial

    I don’t know how he does it, but Ben Macintyre has once again produced a dazzling tale of 20th-century espionage that is more gripping than any thriller novel or movie. I also don’t know why I don’t remember media reports of Oleg Gordievsky’s escape from Russia to Britain, because it’s a stunner. Macintyre tells Gordievsky’s story of following his father’s and brother’s footsteps to become a KGB officer; becoming disenchanted with his agency and country as a result of witnessing the building of I don’t know how he does it, but Ben Macintyre has once again produced a dazzling tale of 20th-century espionage that is more gripping than any thriller novel or movie. I also don’t know why I don’t remember media reports of Oleg Gordievsky’s escape from Russia to Britain, because it’s a stunner. Macintyre tells Gordievsky’s story of following his father’s and brother’s footsteps to become a KGB officer; becoming disenchanted with his agency and country as a result of witnessing the building of the Berlin Wall and then living in Copenhagen for his first posting; deciding to share information about the KGB with MI6; becoming suspected of treason by the KGB; and, finally, participating in a way-beyond-tense extraction plot to become an unheard-of escapee from the USSR. There can be a certain sameness to WW2/Cold War espionage stories, but I haven’t found that to be the case with Ben Macintyre’s books. He always manages to zero in on the most thought-provoking aspects of each story. His A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal is probably my all-time favorite espionage book, because of its focus on the human cost of betrayal. In this book, he certainly looks at that issue, but he often concentrates on the difficultly of running an agent while trying to keep his identity secret even from other friendly security agencies. As all espionage readers know, there were KGB moles within MI6 and the CIA during the high-stakes Cold War era. MI6 and the CIA tended to be suspicious of each other’s ability to protect their own agents from being betrayed, so naturally they kept identities on a need-to-know basis. The same when they were dealing with other agencies, like the FBI in the US, MI5 in the UK, and the Danes when Gordievsky was stationed in Copenhagen. But there are practical problems with this protective stance. Gordievsky was a natural surveillance target for any agency where he was stationed, but what if MI6 had operational reason to want him not to be surveilled at some particular time? It could be very tricky, as we learn in the book. The most thrilling part of the book is, of course, the story of Gordievsky falling under suspicion and having to set in motion the long-planned extraction scheme with MI6. Macintyre tells us about the long years of planning for the eventuality, every detail in the plan and every way the planning went awry. I would enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone interested in espionage.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Yoon

    For author Ben MacIntyre, Oleg Gordievsky belongs in the pantheon of world changing spies. A KGB colonel at the height of the Cold War, he was in fact an agent for the British Secret Service. The book opens with his flat in Moscow being bugged, cameras installed and a light coating of radioactive dust sprinkled on his clothes and shoes. Oleg is returning to Moscow and it's clear his traitorous activity of the past decade has been discovered. The noose is tightening and Oleg is quickly running ou For author Ben MacIntyre, Oleg Gordievsky belongs in the pantheon of world changing spies. A KGB colonel at the height of the Cold War, he was in fact an agent for the British Secret Service. The book opens with his flat in Moscow being bugged, cameras installed and a light coating of radioactive dust sprinkled on his clothes and shoes. Oleg is returning to Moscow and it's clear his traitorous activity of the past decade has been discovered. The noose is tightening and Oleg is quickly running out of options. MacIntyre is a meticulous researcher and interviewed nearly every British agent working with Gordievsky and several Russians as well. He creates a tense historical account that reads like a slow burning thriller. But this isn't movie spy-craft and what becomes critical to Oleg's story is a Mars bar, a Safeway bag and a soiled diaper. Mundane details certainly, Oleg is turned while playing badminton of all things, but let's not discount the world-changing effect he had on geo-political relations. He may very well have averted nuclear disaster and helped usher in a new age of glasnost. An eye opening account of old world spy-craft where the KGB, CIA and MI6 converge. A full review for our Non-Fiction November pick here: https://youtu.be/qoz3wJAL-Xs

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    Definitely the best book I've read so far this year - it was like a thriller movie in words with all the right characters and pacing that immediately sucked me in and didn't let me go until the final word. I also loved learning more about the Cold War - it's crazy to think about how much worse it could have been had it not been for the efforts of a handful of people and one spy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I am an avid reader of espionage novels Le Carre, Len Deighton, Mick Herron, Charles Cumming, Ken Follett, Robert Harris to name a few... But have never strayed into the murky waters of a true spy story, but I am so happy that I did, this is an incredible true story, magnificently told by Ben Macintyre. I'll definitely be reading more of his books!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    This fascinating account of KGB officer turned double agent reads like a spy thriller by LeCarre. Oleg Gordievsky agreed to spy for MI6 in the 1970s, not for money but because of his concern for recent Soviet actions, such as the Berlin wall, and his love of freedom. He became one of the biggest sources of information on Soviet policy and Soviet spies in Britain until he was fingered by CIA's Aldrich Ames, who was spying for Russia. He was the top spy in London before he was brought down and cal This fascinating account of KGB officer turned double agent reads like a spy thriller by LeCarre. Oleg Gordievsky agreed to spy for MI6 in the 1970s, not for money but because of his concern for recent Soviet actions, such as the Berlin wall, and his love of freedom. He became one of the biggest sources of information on Soviet policy and Soviet spies in Britain until he was fingered by CIA's Aldrich Ames, who was spying for Russia. He was the top spy in London before he was brought down and called back to Moscow; the nail-biting account of his escape reveals those moments of pure terror in what is often the mundane life of a spy. Despite the wealth of details, the book builds in intensity and moves throughout at a good clip; authentic and compelling characters; absorbing true story with surprising twists; well-incorporated details of spycraft, the life of a spy, and Cold War history and personalities; well-researched story written in polished prose; chilling, dramatic, intense, suspenseful tone. John Lee's narration is masterful--he even conveys bits of humor throughout.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kalen

    Do yourself a favor and read this book. I mean, come on. When John Le Carre says it's, “the best true spy story I have ever read" what are you waiting for? So, really, I liked Macintyre's earlier book "A Spy Among Friends" better than this one but only because it was the first time I've read spy nonfiction and I was blown away by the wackadoodle world in which these guys (and gals) live. This one wasn't any less wackadoodle but it wasn't as shocking and surprising as the first one I read. Oleg G Do yourself a favor and read this book. I mean, come on. When John Le Carre says it's, “the best true spy story I have ever read" what are you waiting for? So, really, I liked Macintyre's earlier book "A Spy Among Friends" better than this one but only because it was the first time I've read spy nonfiction and I was blown away by the wackadoodle world in which these guys (and gals) live. This one wasn't any less wackadoodle but it wasn't as shocking and surprising as the first one I read. Oleg Gordievsky is someone you've probably never heard of and yet he was one of the most influential figures in geopolitics in the 1980s. His actions as a double agent helped end the Cold War and his story is completely fascinating. It was hard to put this book down for the last 100 pages and for those this one gets five stars rather than the four I was considering.

  20. 4 out of 5

    J. Boo

    Story of KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky. Sample review/precis here: http://thefederalist.com/2018/10/26/h... Features new-to-me-but-old-to-everyone-else allegation by Gordievsky that Labour Party leader Michael Foot had been a KGB agent.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    The Gordievsky case was a rare success for the British Secret Intelligence Service. Although much of the outlines of his spying career and exfiltration from the Soviet Union are known, this book goes in to the story in great detail but in a highly readable manner. Mr Macintyre focuses largely on the deadly game of cat and mouse between Gordievsky and his KGB controllers in 1985, when he was betrayed by the CIA traitor Aldrich Ames. The questioning in the KGB dacha after "truth drugs" had been ad The Gordievsky case was a rare success for the British Secret Intelligence Service. Although much of the outlines of his spying career and exfiltration from the Soviet Union are known, this book goes in to the story in great detail but in a highly readable manner. Mr Macintyre focuses largely on the deadly game of cat and mouse between Gordievsky and his KGB controllers in 1985, when he was betrayed by the CIA traitor Aldrich Ames. The questioning in the KGB dacha after "truth drugs" had been administered to Gordievsky is truly frightening. The exfiltration itself is described with all the terrifying detail. Macintyre puts the reader in the SIS team's seat in a gripping way. Brilliant book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bettie☯

    BOTW Listen here Description: Ben Macintyre's thrilling new book tells the story of a KGB double agent and plunges us into the Cold War's underworld of espionage, duplicity and intrigue. Today, disaffection sets in for one of the KGB's newest recruits. Tim McInnerny reads Ben Macintyre's thrilling new history tells the breath taking story of a KGB double agent operating at the height of the Cold War. Passing countless secrets to his British spymasters at M16 over the course of a decade he undermine BOTW Listen here Description: Ben Macintyre's thrilling new book tells the story of a KGB double agent and plunges us into the Cold War's underworld of espionage, duplicity and intrigue. Today, disaffection sets in for one of the KGB's newest recruits. Tim McInnerny reads Ben Macintyre's thrilling new history tells the breath taking story of a KGB double agent operating at the height of the Cold War. Passing countless secrets to his British spymasters at M16 over the course of a decade he undermined the Soviet Union's intelligence gathering machine from deep within. Eventually, he was betrayed and what followed was a sequence of events involving ingenuity, duplicity, and fearlessness. 3* The Spy and Traitor 3* Agent ZigZag 4* A Spy Among Friends 3* Double Cross 3* The Englishman's Daughter WL Rogue Heroes

  23. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, and that is certainly the case of Oleg Gordievsky, KGB double agent who’s valuable intel helped shape the Cold War. His diplomatic postings would eventually lead him to the highest office in the KGB’s London station, and all the while he provided MI6 with a cache of information that impacted politics on a global scale. Whether it was coaching Thatcher for her meeting with Gorbachev, identifying KGB agents within the UK, or providing insight into the Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, and that is certainly the case of Oleg Gordievsky, KGB double agent who’s valuable intel helped shape the Cold War. His diplomatic postings would eventually lead him to the highest office in the KGB’s London station, and all the while he provided MI6 with a cache of information that impacted politics on a global scale. Whether it was coaching Thatcher for her meeting with Gorbachev, identifying KGB agents within the UK, or providing insight into the inner-workings of the Kremlin, Gordievsky was the most important asset in the British intelligence network. “He risked his life to betray his country, and made the world a little safer.” The constant threat of exposure, leading a double life and withholding the truth from his family, and preparing for defection was a constant strain but the knowledge that he was helping eradicate communism was a greater motivator than fear for his own safety. And don’t even get me started on his harrowing escape – the detail of his extradition is the thrilling cherry on top of an already exhilarating narrative. I’ve been wanting to read more about the Cold War, and this was a perfect introduction to the world of KGB operatives, international spy-craft, and the dangerous politics of the era. I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Released at a time when Russia espionage is again at the forefront of the world's eye, Ben Macintyre's The Spy And The Traitor delivers a riveting and authentic look at one of the most remarkable spy stories of the Cold War era. To Westerners, the KGB - and even Russia itself - is often considered as brutal and heartless as it is mysterious and cunning. Here, Macintyre tells a story about Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB agent raised in a KGB family, who defies his country due to a moralistic conviction ro Released at a time when Russia espionage is again at the forefront of the world's eye, Ben Macintyre's The Spy And The Traitor delivers a riveting and authentic look at one of the most remarkable spy stories of the Cold War era. To Westerners, the KGB - and even Russia itself - is often considered as brutal and heartless as it is mysterious and cunning. Here, Macintyre tells a story about Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB agent raised in a KGB family, who defies his country due to a moralistic conviction rooted in seeing the Russian lies and injustice for himself. He risked his career, life and family to funnel secrets to MI6, the British intelligence service, and proved to be one of the most influential guiding lights during the Cold War in the 1970s and 1980s. The heartbeat of the story focuses on Gordievsky, his life as a double agent, and specifically his daring escape from Moscow after the KGB learned of his years of deception. Gordievsky's flight from Russia, with the help of British agents and their wives, was by far the most riveting aspect of this book. It truly captured the extent of his peril as the result of betraying Mother Russia. Even today, all sides agree Gordievsky would be dead had he not fled half-naked over the Finnish border in the trunk of a British diplomatic vehicle. To Macintyre's credit, the detail in this book is impeccable and the extent of his research (more than 20 interviews with Gordievsky alone) clearly evident. Many parts of this book are "page-turners," but the reader's pace is slowed at points due to the level of detail. As a passionate reader of narrative non-fiction, I can appreciate a highly detailed book, but it has a trade off. Try as I might, I couldn't just zip through this book. Those who love a good spy story will find true tales of truth serums, interrogations and cat-and-mouse chases. But in fairness, Gordievsky was a political spy, so the critical information he had access to and the plots he foiled, while significant, aren't the most gripping moments of the book. But it is true he played a vital role in calming nuclear tensions simply by making Western leaders aware of how paranoid the Russians actually were and how Western actions were pushing them to the brink. In the end, The Spy And The Traitor is a great read and an impressive work of non-fiction, especially for those who enjoy true tales of espionage, history and the tensions of the Cold War era. Underneath it all, though, lies a remarkable story of how much one human being was willing to sacrifice for a cause he believed in.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rob Thompson

    A gripping account of Cold War rivalries Oleg Gordievsky, the subject of this dazzling non-fiction thriller. He was the most significant British agent of the Cold War era. For 11 years, between 1974 and 1985. he passed Russian seems to MI6 while working for the KGB, first in Copenhagen and later in London. Even more remarkably, he became the only British agent ever to be exfiltrated out of Russia. This was after his KGB bosses had grown suspicious and recalled him to Moscow. Gordievsky story has A gripping account of Cold War rivalries Oleg Gordievsky, the subject of this dazzling non-fiction thriller. He was the most significant British agent of the Cold War era. For 11 years, between 1974 and 1985. he passed Russian seems to MI6 while working for the KGB, first in Copenhagen and later in London. Even more remarkably, he became the only British agent ever to be exfiltrated out of Russia. This was after his KGB bosses had grown suspicious and recalled him to Moscow. Gordievsky story has been told before, not least in his own gripping 1995 memoir. In this meticulously researched book Ben Macintrye's complements and enhances that account. He does this by focusing on the most thought-provoking aspects of each story. Macintrye bases the narrative on interviews with its subject who is now 79 and lives in the Home Counties. He is still under sentence of death. The story is also enhanced with details from the MI6 officer involved in the case too. Gordievsky, the son of an NKVD colonel, was at first an enthusiastic recruit to the KGB. Doubts only began to surface after he was posted to Copenhagen in the mid-1960s. The Danish capital was so much richer than Moscow, while his love of books and classical music opened his mind to new ideas. Gordievsky took his first step towards defecting after the Red Army had crushed the Prague Spring of 1968. He vented his fury to his wife, over a phone line that he knew to be bugged by Danish intelligence. Over time, the message got through to MI6, and a tall, friendly Englishman recruited him over a lunch. During his active years, Gordievsky provided unimaginable value to the UK. He revealed, for instance that in the 1980s the paranoid Soviet leadership was planning a preemptive nuclear strike on the West. He also exposed various Soviet agents of influence, such as Labour's Michael Foot. Foot allegedly dined with, and took cash payments from, the KGB. Gordievsky’s career culminated with a plot twist so implausible that it could happen only in real life. He realised that the authorities were onto him, and triggered a long-prepared escape plan. An MI6 agent smuggled him out of Russia in the boot of a family car, and he was brought back to London for a hero's welcome. At a time when the machinations of Russian intelligence dominates the news, this exciting book offers a refreshing reversal. In this story, it's the Russians who get turned inside out by a British mole.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Finch

    This is the first nonfiction spy account I've read, and boy, is any other gonna have a hard time living up to this one! The Spy and the Traitor is the fascinating, heart-pounding, and complex story of Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB agent who traded his allegiance to MI6. Working as a double-agent, Gordievksy is able to help reveal a number of other KGB spies as well as provide insights on topics from the Cold War and nuclear arms to the relationship between Britain and the Soviet Union. However, Gordie This is the first nonfiction spy account I've read, and boy, is any other gonna have a hard time living up to this one! The Spy and the Traitor is the fascinating, heart-pounding, and complex story of Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB agent who traded his allegiance to MI6. Working as a double-agent, Gordievksy is able to help reveal a number of other KGB spies as well as provide insights on topics from the Cold War and nuclear arms to the relationship between Britain and the Soviet Union. However, Gordievksy is constantly at risk of being caught, and the chronic tension really heightens the sense of danger and daring throughout the book. I appreciate that Macintyre discusses the different motives for why spies may switch sides and just how Gordievsky fit into that mold. Most spies flip for money or power or acknowledgement; Gordievsky betrayed the KGB because he discovered the true atrocities his country had committed and continued to inflict upon his fellow countrymen. The bleak, oppressive laws of Soviet Russia were such a contrast to the diverse and intelligent culture Gordievsky encountered outside his country, and combined with Russia's military movement against Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring, Gordievsky became disenchanted with his nation's tactics and their beliefs. Thus it was Gordievsky's belief that the world could be a better and safer place if democracy ruled that pushed him to change sides, and although he still betrayed his country, it was for a truly good cause. While the entire narrative is secretive and audacious enough to keep you turning pages, the most exciting part of the story is easily Gordievsky's escape from the Soviet Union. There were so many things that had to go just right for MI6's escape plan to work, and none of them worked out, yet the boldness and quick-thinking of the British agents ensured that Gordievsky escaped safely and was able to continue to aid MI6. It's an ending sure to keep you on the edge of your seat, even knowing the outcome. It reads like a bestselling spy novel except that it actually happened, and you'll find yourself rooting Gordievsky and MI6 until his feet touch British soil. The Spy and the Traitor is both an educational and highly entertaining read about Soviet politics and intelligence during the Cold War, and it shows just how far people are willing to go to fight for their beliefs. *Thanks to Penguin's First to Read for the advance copy of this book.*

  27. 4 out of 5

    David Chabot

    Some stories deserve to be told, and this one sure is. The KGB was a feared institution that let no one slip away, or at least no one except our hero. The amount of courage and resilience needed to do 10% of what Oleg Gordievsky did is still exceptionnal, but this guy is just a true badass. We should tell these stories instead of listening to stupid reality show stars, but that's a whole other debate. A must read for any Cold War aficionado.

  28. 5 out of 5

    John Eldridge

    An exceptional and outstanding spy story. It reads like a fast-paced, heart-stopping made up story but it's a nonfiction book full of suspense and intrigue. Also, for those wanting a better understanding of the cold war and the spying that went on between the USSR and the west, this book provides a good insight into that. Margaret Thatcher actually read the intelligence briefings resulting from Gordievsky's spying. I really enjoyed the book. Well researched and a story well told. A great read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ronnie Cramer

    I've read six of Ben Macintyre's previous books and given them all 5-star ratings; they are all terrific and yet somehow they keep getting better and better. This one tells the story of a high-raking KGB agent who decides to spy for the West. It skillfully interweaves the man's harrowing personal journey with the historical ramifications of the resulting events. Highly recommended.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jonny

    As a spy story, this is more compelling and tightly written than any fictional work within the genre that I’ve read. And as a history it’s very well researched (albeit with obvious cooperation from the U.K. and understandable silence from Russia...) and leaves you wondering how Gordievsky could have been able to live his double life for so many years, and have the presence of mind to successfully escape from Russia when he ultimately defected. Macintyre puts the whole story in its wider context As a spy story, this is more compelling and tightly written than any fictional work within the genre that I’ve read. And as a history it’s very well researched (albeit with obvious cooperation from the U.K. and understandable silence from Russia...) and leaves you wondering how Gordievsky could have been able to live his double life for so many years, and have the presence of mind to successfully escape from Russia when he ultimately defected. Macintyre puts the whole story in its wider context (and does a very good job at bringing home the value of the intelligence delivered by Gordievsky) without sacrificing how remarkable the narrative is.

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