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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

    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.

  2. 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.

  3. 5 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. ,

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 4 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...

  7. 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.

  8. 4 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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

  13. 5 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!

  14. 4 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Larry Kirshbaum

    For anyone who loves (as I do) the work of John Le Carre, this is a perfect non-fiction equivalent of the best in spy fiction. Le Carre himself is quoted on the jacket, "The best true spy story I have ever read." It traces the career of Colonel Oleg Antonyevich Gordievsky who rose through the ranks of the Russian KGB and was one of their most prominent spies. He was also, starting in his thirties, recruited by the British MI-6 agency and was living a double life. As the most senior KGB intelligen For anyone who loves (as I do) the work of John Le Carre, this is a perfect non-fiction equivalent of the best in spy fiction. Le Carre himself is quoted on the jacket, "The best true spy story I have ever read." It traces the career of Colonel Oleg Antonyevich Gordievsky who rose through the ranks of the Russian KGB and was one of their most prominent spies. He was also, starting in his thirties, recruited by the British MI-6 agency and was living a double life. As the most senior KGB intelligence operative in Britain, he "changed the course of the cold war" by cracking open Soviet spy networks, helping avert nuclear war by keeping both sides informed as to what was happening on the other side, and providing the West with "a unique insight into the Kremlin's thinking"m during the perilous times of the Cold War. His analysis was read personally by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and American President Ronald Reagan. What makes this true story so fascinating is the incredible level of detail that Macintyre has compiled about the spies and counter-spies in the Cold War era. The subjects covered include how Gordievsky and others were recruited and trained, how they had to lie to their spouses and children about what they were doing, how they lived in constant fear of being discovered and (in the KGB's case) executed, and, in Gordievsky's case, how a back-up plan was formulated by the British to help him escape from Russia when it appeared his cover had been blown. Macintyre is to spycraft what Don Winslow ("The Cartel") is to the Mexican drug wars. While the latter is writing fictionally, the intense plotting and you-are-there quality of both authors will have you fascinated and perspiring from fear in a matter of a few pages. These are battles for good v. evil in which many compromises and feats of dishonesty are part of the job description. In Macintyre's vivid prose, we tail Gordievsky through his fraudulent daily life, rooting for him because he is so important in our understanding of how far the Russians were prepared to go. The research is exhaustive, down to the lampposts that are used to set up meetings and numerous ruses necessary to keep the spy handlers informed as to what was happening. My only quibble with the book is the fire hose of detail. The Russian names in particular are a challenge to keep straight (I recommend a note pad) and in the middle of the book I found myself getting a bit impatient to move the story along faster. That said, this will be the Bible of the dual lives of spies and traitors out of which will come many spy novels. I can feel my heart palpitating right now just thinking of the characters who steal their secrets as they also steal our hearts. A must read for all you 007 fans who think that spying is just scantily clad women and medium-dry martinis shaken not stirred.

  16. 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.*

  17. 5 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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Fascinating true story and a great audiobook!

  19. 4 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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    BOOKLOVER10

    Journalist Ben Macintyre, in his meticulously researched work of non-fiction, "The Spy and the Traitor," recounts how top officials in the KGB (Committee of State Security) and Britain's MI6 (Foreign Intelligence Service) expended a great deal of time, money, and effort to obtain high-quality information about their adversaries during the Cold War. The central figure in this revealing book is Oleg Antonyevich Gordievsky, a KGB agent who, after becoming a British asset, passed on reams of intelli Journalist Ben Macintyre, in his meticulously researched work of non-fiction, "The Spy and the Traitor," recounts how top officials in the KGB (Committee of State Security) and Britain's MI6 (Foreign Intelligence Service) expended a great deal of time, money, and effort to obtain high-quality information about their adversaries during the Cold War. The central figure in this revealing book is Oleg Antonyevich Gordievsky, a KGB agent who, after becoming a British asset, passed on reams of intelligence to his handlers. In doing so, he risked his career, reputation, and personal safety. Unlike other spies, such as the infamous Aldrich Ames, Gordievsky was not motivated by ego or greed. After being posted to such countries as Denmark and England, Oleg became entranced with Western culture and values, which he found enriching, entertaining, and inspiring. In contrast, he came to see Russian society as overly restrictive and devoid of intellectual stimulation. "The Spy and the Traitor" is fascinating on many levels. The author furnishes us with an introduction to the inner workings of the KGB. In addition, he shows how the intelligence establishments in England, the United States, and Russia competed with one another in their eagerness to gain the upper hand. Furthermore, Macintyre helps us understand the thought-processes of Gordievsky, a brilliant, courageous, and principled man who had a facility for languages and a prodigious memory. For more than a decade, he successfully juggled two identities. On the outside he was a party apparatchik and family man, but unbeknownst to his colleagues, relatives, and friends, he betrayed his government for ideological reasons. Although he did not ask for remuneration, Gordievsky eventually accepted payment for his services. He was particularly insistent that if the KGB became aware of his clandestine activities, MI6 should have a workable "emergency escape plan" in place. This compelling story sheds light on how Gordievsky's insider knowledge influenced major political and diplomatic events during the Cold War. Drawing on a wealth of primary and secondary sources, Macintyre provides not just facts, but also colorful anecdotes and illuminating perspectives about this perilous era. Moreover, the author discusses how such major figures as Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Ronald Reagan interacted with one another. One minor quibble is that Macintyre inundates us with so much detail that it is difficult to keep track of all the characters and the roles that they play in the proceedings. Still, this entertaining and enlightening narrative is well worth reading for its authenticity and relevance to today's world. "The Spy and the Traitor" is a suspenseful and riveting account of an extraordinary individual who risked a great deal in his determination to strengthen democracy and undermine his country's repressive regime.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    I enjoyed this book immensely. Having devoured pretty much everything that's been written about the Cambridge Spies, Ames and Aldrich, I was overjoyed to read this account of Britain's best spy within the KGB during the 70s and 80s. The book was written with the collaboration of its subject, and of many of the people in MI6 who had been involved, and so it offers an unusually well-rounded and complete view of the story. I was especially interested in the interlinking of so many different threads I enjoyed this book immensely. Having devoured pretty much everything that's been written about the Cambridge Spies, Ames and Aldrich, I was overjoyed to read this account of Britain's best spy within the KGB during the 70s and 80s. The book was written with the collaboration of its subject, and of many of the people in MI6 who had been involved, and so it offers an unusually well-rounded and complete view of the story. I was especially interested in the interlinking of so many different threads : the information provided by Oleg informed Margaret Thatcher's approach to Russia, especially to the rising star Gorbachev, and clarified for the Western powers just how paranoid the KGB really was. The story of Aldrich Ames, the CIA traitor who exposed Oleg and caused his recall to Moskow, was not the focus of the book, but it was told in enough detail to be able to connect the dots. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book for me was the spycraft : for years, officials of the British embassy would show up at very regular intervals, on the agreed-upon spot at the agreed-upon time, carrying the agreed-upon recognition signal (a Harrods shopping bag). I tried to imagine successive waves of British embassy personnel doing this week after week, always for nothing... until one day, they did spot the man carrying a Safeway shopping bag and wearing a grey cap. And that signal set in motion an audacious exfiltration plan, right under the nose of the very suspicious KGB. As far as I know, this was the first and only time that a suspected spy had been smuggled out of Moskow, and this is fingernail-chewing stuff. It can only be a matter of time before a movie is made of this story. Vigo Mortenssen as Oleg, perhaps?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anders Rasmussen

    This book is as good as it gets when it comes to spy stories. It starts out strong – diving straight into the story – and then it just keeps going. I can be a drifter, but it was impossible to drift away while reading this book. It keeps the reader engaged at all times. The protagonist is Oleg Gordievsky. A real person! Indeed, an actual former KGB spy who defected and joined MI6, becoming one of the most important spies in the cold war. If you like the show “The Americans” then you are almost gu This book is as good as it gets when it comes to spy stories. It starts out strong – diving straight into the story – and then it just keeps going. I can be a drifter, but it was impossible to drift away while reading this book. It keeps the reader engaged at all times. The protagonist is Oleg Gordievsky. A real person! Indeed, an actual former KGB spy who defected and joined MI6, becoming one of the most important spies in the cold war. If you like the show “The Americans” then you are almost guaranteed to enjoy this book as well. I particularly appreciated the descriptions of how spies communicate with one another. It can go something like this: If spy X leaves an orange peel under the right side of a bench in the southwest corner of some park, then that means that someone is onto him. But if instead, he leaves a blue chalk mark on a light pole on street Y in SOHO, that means that he wants to meet. The descriptions of spy communication are both fascinating and humorous. Indeed, as one would expect it can sometimes become confusing such as when one spy was supposed to drop a beer capsule instead dropped a ginger beer capsule. After a lengthy discussion it was decided that the spy probably did not distinguish between ginger beer and real beer. Nevertheless, there is a lot more to this book. You get insight into the political atmosphere in the 1980s, You will encounter politicians as well as spies. Yet, first and foremost, you get a top-notch cat and mouse spy chase. And the best thing is that the story is, as far as I can tell, entirely factual. The author makes it clear when he is speculating, which I appreciate. If you are at all into these types of books, then you can’t go wrong with this book

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jill Elizabeth

    This was an absolutely astonishing story and such a well-written book! I am a long-time fan of non-fiction, particularly because so much truth is, quite often, stranger (and more entertaining) than fiction... This is a marvelous example of that. What Gordievsky went through is nearly unbelievable in scale and scope. That he did so for ZERO monetary gain is even more so. When he is contrasted with Aldrich Ames (who doesn't feature in the story until it is well along the way) who did what he did E This was an absolutely astonishing story and such a well-written book! I am a long-time fan of non-fiction, particularly because so much truth is, quite often, stranger (and more entertaining) than fiction... This is a marvelous example of that. What Gordievsky went through is nearly unbelievable in scale and scope. That he did so for ZERO monetary gain is even more so. When he is contrasted with Aldrich Ames (who doesn't feature in the story until it is well along the way) who did what he did EXCLUSIVELY for money, the tale takes on an even more surreal slant - in the best possible way. I was flipping pages frantically near the end, waiting to see Gordievsky's fate (and that of his family) would be. While I was familiar with Ames's tale, Gordievsky's was new to me and all the more fascinating for it. The research was meticulous and the writing was excellent. There is a LOT of detail here and it takes a while to work through it all, but throughout the book everything was so well managed that it never felt over-drawn, over-detailed, or overly-long. The story-telling was well paced and the characters jumped off the pages as a result of the extraordinary way they were presented. This was a marvelous and amazing story told by a master, and Macintyre is definitely on my "to watch" list now!! Thanks to Penguin First to Read for my review copy.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    The Spy and the Traitor by Ben MacIntyre follows in the tradition of his other books of taking a forgotten espionage event and retelling it in riveting detail that keeps the reader turning the pages. In this case the Spy is Oleg Gordievsky who was a member of the KGB that became disgusted with the Russian regime after the Berlin Wall and the crushing of the Prague Spring and offered his services to the British while working in Copenhagen. He would eventually work his way up to Rezidentura in Gre The Spy and the Traitor by Ben MacIntyre follows in the tradition of his other books of taking a forgotten espionage event and retelling it in riveting detail that keeps the reader turning the pages. In this case the Spy is Oleg Gordievsky who was a member of the KGB that became disgusted with the Russian regime after the Berlin Wall and the crushing of the Prague Spring and offered his services to the British while working in Copenhagen. He would eventually work his way up to Rezidentura in Great Britain although would never get to use his time there to spy for the British. He was betrayed by the CIA agent Aldrich Ames who turned to the KGB for money and would expose over two dozen spies including Gordievsky. This would lead to the most daring escape of the Cold War with the British smuggling Gordievsky out of Russia via Finland leaving the KGB looking for him all over the country. As with all of the authors books you learn a great deal about spy craft and the ways that spies were used by their governments. This book does a great job of showing Gordievsky’s importance to pivotal events where both Reagan and Thatcher used his intelligence in a variety of ways. Another great read from this author and one not to be missed for those interested in the history of espionage or the Cold War.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bill Sleeman

    Ben Macintyre is one of the best writers of non-fiction spy and espionage work period! This work tracks the career of Oleg Gordievsky and reads like fiction: fast, engaging and imaginative – that it is fact makes it even more amazing. I have read two of Macintyre’s other works – “Operation Mincement” and “Agent Zigzag” and this work “The Spy and the Traitor” is similar in many ways in that Macintyre’s pro-west and pro-Britain sympathies are right out there for all to see. As a storyteller there Ben Macintyre is one of the best writers of non-fiction spy and espionage work period! This work tracks the career of Oleg Gordievsky and reads like fiction: fast, engaging and imaginative – that it is fact makes it even more amazing. I have read two of Macintyre’s other works – “Operation Mincement” and “Agent Zigzag” and this work “The Spy and the Traitor” is similar in many ways in that Macintyre’s pro-west and pro-Britain sympathies are right out there for all to see. As a storyteller there is never any confusion as to how Macintyre views the world and the challenges facing Europe and the United States. It is good that I agree with him but his viewpoint could be problematic for those who subscribe to the idea that Russia can through trade and/or sanctions be brought around to part of the western liberal community, as the “Spy and the Traitor” suggests, that simply isn’t going to happen. This is a very well done work and likely to be enjoyed by anyone who is a fan of true crime and spy craft.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    Another great look at cold war spies from Macintyre. I've previously read his book on Philby, and came back for more. Macintyre tries to examine the character and motivations of everyone who comes up in these pages, and that is helpful, because it's easy to get the feeling that the world is full of spies and double agents, or at least it was i the 1980s, and everyone's loyalty is questionable. This is, by Macintyre's estimation, the flip side of the Philby story: a KGB agent who decided early in Another great look at cold war spies from Macintyre. I've previously read his book on Philby, and came back for more. Macintyre tries to examine the character and motivations of everyone who comes up in these pages, and that is helpful, because it's easy to get the feeling that the world is full of spies and double agents, or at least it was i the 1980s, and everyone's loyalty is questionable. This is, by Macintyre's estimation, the flip side of the Philby story: a KGB agent who decided early in his career that he believed in democracy more than in the USSR, and then spied as a double agent for MI6 for a decade, risking his life for a philosophical commitment. A greater fraction of the book is taken up by Gordievsky's actual escape from the Soviet Union, step by step, breath by caught breath, than I anticipated, but it is in awfully good story. This is an entertaining yet educational take on intelligence before the USSR broke up, and one of the most influential players in that world. I got a copy to review from First to Read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    I've become a fan of Ben Macintyre's page-turning, expertly crafted true tales of spying from WWII and after. My only real fear is that he's going to catch up to the present moment and so run out of material. He's a splendid writer, and knows how to illuminate the bureaucratic and the mysterious with the telling detail. In this case, his story of the Russian double agent and the American traitor is vivid, fascinating, and moving in the end. The Russian gives up so much to help the west, and the I've become a fan of Ben Macintyre's page-turning, expertly crafted true tales of spying from WWII and after. My only real fear is that he's going to catch up to the present moment and so run out of material. He's a splendid writer, and knows how to illuminate the bureaucratic and the mysterious with the telling detail. In this case, his story of the Russian double agent and the American traitor is vivid, fascinating, and moving in the end. The Russian gives up so much to help the west, and the American traitor betrays so many to line his pockets. One is a product of a totalitarian state and the other of Western materialism. The Russian wants to read great literature and listen to good music. The American wants a car. In the end, you can't help despising the American and finding a well of respect for the Russian. But of course both are spies, professional liars and both betray their respective countries. It's a reminder that the winners write the history, and while the West won the Cold War, it is still sometimes hard to tell the two sides apart.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    "The Spy and the Traitor", the story of how a highly ranked agent of the KGB came t0 spy for British MI6, is readable and compelling. In fact, it reads more like a fictional spy novel than a factual report. From the first page to the last, I was caught up in the tale of Oleg Gordievsky that rivals anything written by Lecarre or Fleming or any television drama such as "The Americans" or "Homeland." It is all in the book, tradecraft such as secret codes, dead drops, purloined documents photographe "The Spy and the Traitor", the story of how a highly ranked agent of the KGB came t0 spy for British MI6, is readable and compelling. In fact, it reads more like a fictional spy novel than a factual report. From the first page to the last, I was caught up in the tale of Oleg Gordievsky that rivals anything written by Lecarre or Fleming or any television drama such as "The Americans" or "Homeland." It is all in the book, tradecraft such as secret codes, dead drops, purloined documents photographed , surveillance and evasion- all the thing that fill fiction are here very real. Here though, the dangers were real. Interesting too was the result that the information given to Britain (and eventually to the USA) about the about the leadership and paranoia of the leadership of the USSR actually led to the avoidance of a nuclear war and then the collapse of Communist Russia. It is quite a story and one which I recommend highly.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eric Lee

    Was Michael Foot, leader of the British Labour Party, a Soviet agent? Was Jack Jones, head of the country's largest trade union, one as well? According to KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky, they both were. (Foot's code name was 'boot'.) Reaction among today's Labour leadership to Ben MacIntyre's latest bestselling book has been as expected. Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that 'Smearing a dead man, who successfully defended himself when he was alive, is about as low as you can go'. Perhaps. There are non-fictio Was Michael Foot, leader of the British Labour Party, a Soviet agent? Was Jack Jones, head of the country's largest trade union, one as well? According to KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky, they both were. (Foot's code name was 'boot'.) Reaction among today's Labour leadership to Ben MacIntyre's latest bestselling book has been as expected. Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that 'Smearing a dead man, who successfully defended himself when he was alive, is about as low as you can go'. Perhaps. There are non-fiction books that are described as 'thrilling', but this is the rare case of one that actually is, even if it turns out that Gordievsky was wrong about Foot and Jones. By the first page of the book you realise that Gordievsky is going to wind up safely in Britain after years of secretly spying for the west, and yet the long and detailed account of his exfiltration from the USSR in the mid-1980s is full of tension and suspense. A fascinating story, extremely well told.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mark Adkins

    The Spy and the Traitor is the story of Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB officer who was secretly spying for Britain during the cold war. Using the story of Oleg Gordievsky, Ben Macintyre explores the espionage aspect of the Cold War between NATO and the USSR. When reading this book it sometimes is hard to believe that these events really happened and it is not a John le Carre espionage novel. There is one particular event that is so tense that you can't stop reading as you need to find out how the event The Spy and the Traitor is the story of Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB officer who was secretly spying for Britain during the cold war. Using the story of Oleg Gordievsky, Ben Macintyre explores the espionage aspect of the Cold War between NATO and the USSR. When reading this book it sometimes is hard to believe that these events really happened and it is not a John le Carre espionage novel. There is one particular event that is so tense that you can't stop reading as you need to find out how the event ends. Hollywood couldn't write it any better. The author wrote this book based on interviews with the majority of the key figures in the Oleg Gordievsky story. As he freely admits he did not have access to the British intelligence files and most certainly not the Russian KGB files. So who knows maybe someday there might be more key information released about this pivotal cold war story.

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