From the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning history The Dead Hand comes the riveting story of a spy who cracked open the Soviet military research establishment and a penetrating portrait of the CIA’s Moscow station, an outpost of daring espionage in the last years of the Cold War
While driving out of the American embassy in Moscow on the evening of February 16, 1978, the chief of the CIA’s Moscow station heard a knock on his car window. A man on the curb handed him an envelope whose contents stunned U.S. intelligence: details of top-secret Soviet research and developments in military technology that were totally unknown to the United States. In the years that followed, the man, Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer in a Soviet military design bureau, used his high-level access to hand over tens of thousands of pages of technical secrets. His revelations allowed America to reshape its weapons systems to defeat Soviet radar on the ground and in the air, giving the United States near total superiority in the skies over Europe.
One of the most valuable spies to work for the United States in the four decades of global confrontation with the Soviet Union, Tolkachev took enormous personal risks—but so did the Americans. The CIA had long struggled to recruit and run agents in Moscow, and Tolkachev was a singular breakthrough. Using spy cameras and secret codes as well as face-to-face meetings in parks and on street corners, Tolkachev and his handlers succeeded for years in eluding the feared KGB in its own backyard, until the day came when a shocking betrayal put them all at risk.
Drawing on previously secret documents obtained from the CIA and on interviews with participants, David Hoffman has created an unprecedented and poignant portrait of Tolkachev, a man motivated by the depredations of the Soviet state to master the craft of spying against his own country. Stirring, unpredictable, and at times unbearably tense, The Billion Dollar Spy is a brilliant feat of reporting that unfolds like an espionage thriller.
Pulitzer-winner Hoffman (The Dead Hand) returns to the Cold War era in his latest biography, proving that nonfiction can read like a John le Carre thriller. The opening sets a grim tone for what will follow, casting a pall over the account of the successes the CIA enjoyed from a Russian spy, Adolf Tolkachev. Hoffman warns early on that Tolkachev (code-named CKSphere), "the most successful and valued agent the United States had run inside the Soviet Union in two decades," will be destroyed by "betrayal from within." But, as in the best genre fiction, giving away the ending actually heightens the suspense. Hoffman recounts the history of the CIA's efforts to learn what the Kremlin was up to, building up to the moment in 1977 when Tolkachev, an engineer, approaches them to provide incredibly valuable intelligence. The information about Soviet weaponry is estimated to have saved the Pentagon about $2 billion in research and development costs, giving the book its title, and making the end to the operation all the more tragic. This real-life tale of espionage will hook readers from the get-go.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Possibly the best book ive ever read
Very rarely a book comes along that causes you to keep reading till it is done. THIS is that book.
I loved every minute
Ok, not great
Book rambled and read more like a reporting of notes. Amazing story but not an engaging writing style.
Billion Dollar Spy
This is an awesome book, about a great man that dedicated his life and risked his family for the destruction of a system that was all about power, but did not give a hoot for the people. Mr. Tolkechev may have done more to destroy evil than any man in history. God bless Adolf Tolkechev!