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

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,433 Ratings  ·  145 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
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Hardcover, 384 pages
Published September 18th 2018 by Signal
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Susan
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Lou
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
Cindy Burnett
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Spy and the Traitor is the true tale of Oleg Gordievsky, a high-level KGB agent, who worked as a double agent for Great Britain and MI6. Gordievsky helped bring about the demise of the Soviet Union, and The Spy and the Traitor details his career and the story of how a CIA agent was almost his downfall. It is a fabulous, nail-biting read that flows like a fast-paced thriller especially as the author carefully unveils the details of Gordievsky’s exciting escape from Moscow in 1985. In an era w ...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
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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
Andrew
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.
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
...more
Dumbledore11214
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.
Mary
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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Mark
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Joyce
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This fascinating account of KGB officer turned double agent reads like a spy thriller by LeCarre. Oleg Gordievsky agreed to spy for MI6 in the 1970s, not for money but because of his concern for recent Soviet actions, such as the Berlin wall, and his love of freedom. He became one of the biggest sources of information on Soviet policy and Soviet spies in Britain until he was fingered by CIA's Aldrich Ames, who was spying for Russia. He was the top spy in London before he was brought down and cal ...more
Henri
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
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J. Boo
Oct 26, 2018 marked it as to-read
Story of KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky. Sample review/precis here: http://thefederalist.com/2018/10/26/h...

Features new-to-me-but-old-to-everyone-else allegation by Gordievsky that Labour Party leader Michael Foot had been a KGB agent.
Paul
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
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Bettie☯
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: bbc listeners
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
...more
Mark
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
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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
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David Chabot
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some stories deserve to be told, and this one sure is. The KGB was a feared institution that let no one slip away, or at least no one except our hero. The amount of courage and resilience needed to do 10% of what Oleg Gordievsky did is still exceptionnal, but this guy is just a true badass. We should tell these stories instead of listening to stupid reality show stars, but that's a whole other debate.

A must read for any Cold War aficionado.
Ronnie Cramer
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've read six of Ben Macintyre's previous books and given them all 5-star ratings; they are all terrific and yet somehow they keep getting better and better. This one tells the story of a high-raking KGB agent who decides to spy for the West. It skillfully interweaves the man's harrowing personal journey with the historical ramifications of the resulting events. Highly recommended.
Jonny
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
John
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-history
I echo the sentiments of other reviewers who said that this book reads like a novel. It kept me engaged throughout.
Karen
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Fascinating true story and a great audiobook!
Julie
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
Peter
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, military
Ben Macintyre's The Spy and the Traitor (2018) continues his serial saga of the real world of spies and tradecraft. If you're a Ben Macintyre fan, you'll love this book; if not, you aren't a Ben Macintyre fan. I am—sort of.

The traitor and spy is KGB Colonel Olev Gordievsky, a KGB agent since 1961 who by 1985 had risen to station chief (rezident) of the London KGB station (rezidentura) in the Soviet Embassy. His father had been a KGB agent and his elder brother was an agent; the KGB was a family
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BOOKLOVER10
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
Val
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The title is not mere hyperbole. Based on the intelligence haul the British gathered from a single Soviet/Russian KGB officer turned-spy, and shared with the U.S., there isn't much debate that the central figure of this book was the greatest Cold War spy the West had. His story is amazing from start to finish.

This book started off a little slowly, taking more time than necessary trying to give a detailed overview of Cold War spies, none of whom really influence the story of the greatest Cold War
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Ann
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
...more
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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.