Master storyteller Ben Macintyre’s most ambitious work to date brings to life the twentieth century’s greatest spy story.
Kim Philby was the greatest spy in history, a brilliant and charming man who rose to head Britain’s counterintelligence against the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War—while he was secretly working for the enemy. And nobody thought he knew Philby like Nicholas Elliott, Philby’s best friend and fellow officer in MI6. The two men had gone to the same schools, belonged to the same exclusive clubs, grown close through the crucible of wartime intelligence work and long nights of drink and revelry. It was madness for one to think the other might be a communist spy, bent on subverting Western values and the power of the free world.
But Philby was secretly betraying his friend. Every word Elliott breathed to Philby was transmitted back to Moscow—and not just Elliott’s words, for in America, Philby had made another powerful friend: James Jesus Angleton, the crafty, paranoid head of CIA counterintelligence. Angleton's and Elliott’s unwitting disclosures helped Philby sink almost every important Anglo-American spy operation for twenty years, leading countless operatives to their doom. Even as the web of suspicion closed around him, and Philby was driven to greater lies to protect his cover, his two friends never abandoned him—until it was too late. The stunning truth of his betrayal would have devastating consequences on the two men who thought they knew him best, and on the intelligence services he left crippled in his wake.
Told with heart-pounding suspense and keen psychological insight, and based on personal papers and never-before-seen British intelligence files, A Spy Among Friends is Ben Macintyre’s best book yet, a high-water mark in Cold War history telling.
In this engaging real-life spy story, Macintyre (Double Cross) pulls back the curtain on the life and exploits of Kim Philby, who served for decades in Britain's intelligence community while secretly working as a Soviet double agent. Macintyre covers the full range of Philby's career, from his work during WWII and the early years of the Cold War to his downfall and defection to the Soviet Union. Moreover, Macintyre widens his scope to look at Philby's closest allies and friends, including fellow MI6 officer Nicholas Elliot and CIA operative James Jesus Angleton the men who stood by him when all others were convinced of his as-yet-unproven guilt. Working with colorful characters and an anything-can-happen attitude, Macintyre builds up a picture of an intelligence community chock-full of intrigue and betrayal, in which Philby was the undisputed king of lies. There's a measure of admiration in the text for Philby's run of luck and audacious accomplishments, as when he was actually placed in charge of anti-Soviet intelligence: "The fox was not merely guarding the henhouse but building it, running it, assessing its strengths and frailties, and planning its future construction." Entertaining and lively, Macintyre's account makes the best fictional thrillers seem tame.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I knew nothing of Kim Philby before reading this book, so the book was very informative on this world class spy and his close relationships with CIA & British Intelligence figures. It is hard to believe he got away with what he did so the story itself is fascinating. My one major complaint is that there are so many names in a 300+ page book your head will spin!...EAF
Spy among friends
Throughly engrossing read. Makes one wonder if our present intelligent community is still running on pink gin and dirty jokes.
In this enthralling narrative depicting the almost ethereal, Judas-like dance of Kim Philby, the author weaves a magnificent web, akin to the one Philby himself wove, that will surely ensnare you. A masterclass in historical storytelling that simultaneously vindicates Nicolas Elliot and offers an unbiased view at the greatest intelligence story in modern history. This book should be read by anyone with even a passing interest in espionage or the intricacies of the Cold War. Absolutely brilliant.