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

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  572 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published September 18th 2018 by Signal
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Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Brandon Forsyth
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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 ...more
Kevin M
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Harry Buckle
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am an avid reader of espionage novels Le Carre, 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!
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: bbc listeners

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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
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Larry Kirshbaum
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Jordan Finch
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs, 2018, nonfiction
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
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Fascinating true story and a great audiobook!
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, non-fiction, vine
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 ...more
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: espionage
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 ...more
Anders Rasmussen
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Jill Elizabeth
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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 ...more
Bill Sleeman
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies
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 ...more
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"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
Eric Lee
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Mark Adkins
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
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
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Ben Macintyre is a writer-at-large for The Times of London and the bestselling author of A Spy Among Friends, Double Cross, Operation Mincemeat, Agent Zigzag, and Rogue Heroes, among other books. Macintyre has also written and presented BBC documentaries of his work.