The Spy and the Traitor
Mr B's review
Mr B’s Christmas Catalogue Review 2018
By the day, this book seems to be more and more relevant. Closely following the savvy and sophisticated Oleg Gordievsky, the Soviet Union’s top man, as he turns MI6 agent over the course of the Cold War. As thrilling and compelling as any spy fiction novel, Ben Macintyre demonstrates exceptional research with a much-needed human angle and shows us everything we would want to know about spy craft.
*Shortlisted for the 2018 Ballie Gifford Prize*
*Shortlisted for the Specsavers National Book Awards 2018*
*A top 10 Sunday Times bestseller*
‘THE BEST TRUE SPY STORY I HAVE EVER READ’ JOHN LE CARRE
A thrilling Cold War story about a KGB double agent, by one of Britain’s greatest historians
On a warm July evening in 1985, a middle-aged man stood on the pavement of a busy avenue in the heart of Moscow, holding a plastic carrier bag. In his grey suit and tie, he looked like any other Soviet citizen. The bag alone was mildly conspicuous, printed with the red logo of Safeway, the British supermarket.
The man was a spy for MI6. A senior KGB officer, for more than a decade he had supplied his British spymasters with a stream of priceless secrets from deep within the Soviet intelligence machine. No spy had done more to damage the KGB. The Safeway bag was a signal: to activate his escape plan to be smuggled out of Soviet Russia.
So began one of the boldest and most extraordinary episodes in the history of espionage. In The Spy and the Traitor Ben Macintyre reveals a tale of betrayal, duplicity and raw courage that changed the course of the Cold War forever.
‘Macintyre does true-life espionage better than anyone else. The Spy and the Traitor may well be his best book yet’ Evening Standard
‘A dazzling non-fiction thriller and an intimate portrait of high-stakes espionage’ Guardian
‘A real-life thriller, as tense as John le Carre’s novels, or even Ian Fleming’s’ Economist
He writes like a novelist, introducing richly drawn characters whose lives intersect with Gordievsky’s. One of the last chapters is as tense as any thriller. No wonder Le Carre liked it * Daily Express * [An] exceptionally rewarding book * Observer * Macintyre’s account brings it to life in vivid technicolor with fascinating new details. He tells it with all the verve we have come to expect from such an accomplished writer * Spectator * Writing about cases of British espionage success that the public knows little about, he says – ‘It takes an investigator of consummate talent and a narrator of equal skill to unearth one of these triumphs and explain it clearly. Ben Macintyre, who is both, has done exactly that. — Frederick Forsyth * Literary Review * You can always rely on this author to tease out fascinating details on the second oldest profession * Sunday Express * The fact that parts of The Spy and the Traitor read like a pacey thriller is a bonus, but it is based on serious research, including interviews with Gordievsky and anonymous British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) officers… This is a remarkable story of one man’s courage, and of the skill of our much traduced security services. Ben Macintyre tells it very well indeed * The Times, Book of the Week * It has become a cliche to say that real-life spy stories read like John le Carre, but Gordievsky’s personal history makes the comparison irresistible… Macintyre tells the story brilliantly. His book’s final third is superbly done — Dominic Sandbrook, Book of the Week * Sunday Times * [A] captivating espionage tale. In a feat of real authorial dexterity, Macintyre accurately portrays the long-game banality of spycraft-the lead time and persistence in planning-with such clarity and propulsive verve that the book often feels like a thriller. Macintyre has produced a timely and insightful page-turner. * Publishers Weekly * A dazzling non-fiction thriller and an intimate portrait of high-stakes espionage — Luke Harding * Guardian * A real-life thriller, as tense as John le Carre’s novels, or even Ian Fleming’s * Economist * Macintyre does true-life espionage better than anyone else. He has a remarkable ability to construct a narrative that is as taut and urgent as it is carefully nuanced. Here the pace never slackens and the focus never drifts, while Macintyre’s insight into his subject’s tangle of contradictions never loses its sharpness. It’s a tough call, but The Spy and the Traitor may well be his best book yet. — John Preston * Evening Standard * The best true spy story I have ever read — John le Carre