'The Spy and the Traitor' by Ben Macintyre

'The Spy and the Traitor' by Ben Macintyre
AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev

EDITOR’S NOTE: In this RealClearBooks series, we highlight recent nonfiction books from across the political spectrum. This week’s book is Ben Macintyre's The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, published last year by Random House.

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Fiametta Rocco, Five Books: 'It’s the story of Oleg Gordievsky, who was probably the most important British spy in Soviet Russia since the Second World War. He was the only spy we ever had that we managed to get out of Russia and bring back to Britain alive. He’s an extremely intelligent man with a prodigious memory, who worked at a very senior level and

was the provider of enormous amounts of information, all through the 1970s, the Reagan years, the Gorbachev-Reagan-Thatcher friendship, the development of glasnost, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening up of Russia. Although Gordievsky has written his own memoir about his years as a spy, he now lives under a new name in Britain. Nobody has ever interviewed all the British people who were involved in running the Gordievsky operation, until now.

Ben Macintyre has not had access to the MI6 archives, because they are sealed. But he has been allowed to interview absolutely everyone who worked on running Gordievsky, and it’s an incredible read. It’s like a truly rip-roaring piece of the absolutely best spy fiction.' 

David Ignatius, Washington Post: 'The Spy and the Traitor arrives at a moment when the machinations of Russian intelligence (election meddling, Internet manipulation, assassination by poison) are the subjects of almost daily news stories. Russia and its ex-KGB president seem brutally dominant in the intelligence sphere. Ben Macintyre offers a refreshing reversal of that theme: In this story, it’s the Russians who get turned inside out by a British mole. It’s the Kim Philby case, in reverse.

The subtitle of Macintyre’s latest real-life spy thriller calls it “The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War.” Like pretty much everything in this fine book, the description is accurate.'  Read the full review.

The Guardian: 'Over the past decade, from his breakout success with Agent Zigzag to his biography of Kim Philby, A Spy Among Friends, Macintyre has built an entirely justified reputation for his true spy thrillers. Those books were good, but this one’s better. In fact, it feels a little like he has been waiting all the time to tell us about Gordievsky, since this story is so much bigger than those he has told before.'  Read the full review.


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