The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

The Spy and the Traitor

Ben Macintyre

Ben Macintyre 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 best true spy story I have ever read.”JOHN LE CARRÉ

The celebrated author of Double Cross and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Americans-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the end of the Cold War.

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.

Advance Galley Reviews

I've been reading Ben Macintyre's books since the publication of his first non-fiction tome (which wasn't about spying at all, but about the relationship between a soldier and a local woman on the Western front during WW1 and their daughter, and the local community...) That said, I had become a bit weary of his delving into every possible WW2 spy story out there, and after reading the rather tedious book about the birth of the SAS in the desert war, I had almost decided to give up on him altogether. Then I started reading his Cold War books and I'm a fan again. His book about Kim Philby's betrayal of not just his country but his friendships is a classic, and this chronicle comes close in the level of complexity of the relationships that Macintyre deals with. From the how and why of Gordievsky's decision to align himself with the West at the height of the post-Stalinist Cold War, to the tug-of-war for pre-eminence in the fight against Soviet espionage by British and American spymasters -- it's a masterful story of geopolitical gamesmanship. And the attempt by Gordievsky to flee the Soviet Union is one of the most suspenseful narratives of its kind I've ever read in a non-fiction book -- I knew what happened, because I remember the case, but I forgot that I knew while reading this. In light of the poisonings of Litvinenko and Skripal, and the resurrection of an aggressive post-Soviet Russia, this tale takes on new resonance. 5/5

What an incredible book! I grew up behind the Iron Curtain in former Czechoslovakia. That was the reason I have picked this book from the offers in the First to Read program. I wanted to read the account of that time by Oleg Gordievsky, especially his account of the 1980's. The style and level of detail change towards the end of the book, from the incredible account of the journey of a KGB agent to his life as a double agent to a truly nail-biting description of his escape and personal sacrifice towards the end of the book. I definitely recommend this book to anybody who is interested in modern history.

I really enjoyed Ben Macintyre's Double Cross which I read a few years ago. So I was very excited to read his latest book, The Spy and the Traitor. This book was so intriguing. Macintyre explains Gordievsky's life so vividly and explains his role as a double agent so thoroughly. I love the way he explains how much the Soviet Union really overestimated the British intelligence and vice versa. I also love how Macintyre writes about the Soviet's paranoia during the Cold War. While reading this book, I felt like I was reading a story and not just a historical nonfiction book. I definitely recommend this book to people who like history and spies and the insanity of the Cold War.

I don't often read books based off of true stories, but this was an interesting one, mostly because I haven't read anything about the Soviet Union and the people within it. This story is well written and remains interesting. I managed to get through it quicker than I thought I would.

I was very excited to read this book as it was based on a true story. It was very well written and a quick read. I highly recommend reading! Rating: 4/5

As a thriller fan I have read a number of novels involving spies and the Cold War. When Ben MacIntyre’s book became available for review, I was fascinated by the non-fiction story of Oleg Gordievsky. Once I started to read this book it was hard to put down. As Russia’s top man in London, he was actually working for MI6, providing a tale that was better than most fiction thrillers that I have read. I would like to thank First to Read for providing this book for my review.

I received an advanced copy of of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. This is the story of Oleg Gordievsky. He lived in Russia and worked for the KGB. He became disillusioned with communism and decided that he would become a spy for Britain. This is a bit dry and overly filled with details. This book and the story that it tells is however fascinating. Oleg helped in a lot of Cold War issues to help to deescalate the situation so that things didn’t blow up and the world didn’t end up in a nuclear war, sometimes literally. This was a good book, definitely one I enjoyed.

This is overall a very well-written book, bringing a real-life incident the fitting telling with more drama and better pacing than some spy novels! There were definitely some spots where repetition got in the way, but hopefully that is getting cleaned up in the editing. Glad this story was able to come to light, especially the way the intelligence was applied to increase understanding between the super powers.

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. 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!!

I was unable to read this galley due to the fact that it expired on the first to read website and on digital editions. I don’t think they should expire until AFTER the review is due.

Amazing book! I've only read one other Ben Macintyre book and so I knew I had to get my hands on this. I've never found myself reading a nonfiction book and sitting on the edge of my seat, reading late into the night, just to find out what happens next, until I read this book. Macintyre is a master at telling a true story in a way that absolutely grabs hold of the reader and doesn't let go until the last page. Would highly recommend!

Great read! This nonfiction spy book is better than fiction. It had me hooked from the beginning. If you want to have a glimpse into the true life of espionage this is your chance.

Ben Macintyre’s new book describes how a KGB intelligence officer, Oleg Gordievsky, determines he no longer believes in communism, as a result; he agrees to spy for the British and skillfully turns the tables on the KGB and furnishes British intelligence with an enormous collection of Soviet secrets However, at the same time, CIA officer, Aldrich Ames, succumbs to greed and decides to spy against the United States for the Russians. As Oleg works to bring down the Soviet Union, Ames informs the KGB of undercover operatives working for Western intelligence. By identifying these individuals, he is for all intent signing their death warrants. This international game of espionage comes to climax when Gordievsky is betrayed and must undertake a daring escape. Macintyre has created an in depth look at Cold War spying that is both interesting and timely.

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.

Ben Mcintyre has written another excellent book for those who love reading about The Spooks. Oleg Gordievsky's bravery comes to life as a spy whose actions were for conscience not greed. Fascinating late Cold War History that was hard to put down until you finished.

Ben MacIntyre never fails to tell a good story well, and The Traitor is an enjoyable, educational and, at times, unbelievable account of life in the not so distant 1970's and 80's when we all believed that Russia was our greatest enemy. Little did we know what was really going on behind the scenes. Eye opening.

Excellent narrative that kept me on edge from cover to cover although I knew this true spy story quite well. That is quite an accomplishment that shows what a gifted writer [author:Ben Macintyre] is.

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.

Thanks for the ARC of Ben MacIntyre’s “The Spy and the Traitor” Philby and Aldrich Ames are familiar names to me, however Oleg Gordievsky was not. The spy genre is not a favorite for me but this writing was bigger than only a singular theme. The book is an historical representation of spys functioning in a specific culture yet needing a vast understanding of their adverseries’ political, ideological , social and human makeup. IIt is a fascinating read and paced very well.

Oleg Gordievsky, double agent for Russia and England via Denmark, came from a family full of agents and spies from the KGB. Oleg went to spy training school in northern Russia, where he swore he would always defend the secrets of Russia. But in the years following, he did not honor his allegiance. The Spy and The Traitor is an excellent account of his life on both sides of the fence, complete with many details of the spying lifestyle.

Absolutely fascinating story, especially since it was true. It was terrifying, nerve wracking but sometimes bumblingly funny. Well written and gripping till the end. I intend to go back and read some of the other works by this author.

Having studied about Aldrich Ames in my classes, this book immediately intrigued me. I was not disappointed. Right from the start, it grabbed my attention and kept it through the entire book.

I cannot write a review as I have not read the book. I have tried to download it but First Read is not coming through for me: it is a waste of my time to keep trying to solve this problem so I will just have to ignore your e-mail.


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