NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The celebrated author of Double Cross and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Americans-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the end of the Cold War.
“The best true spy story I have ever read.”—JOHN LE CARRÉ
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Economist • Shortlisted for the Bailie Giffords Prize in Nonfiction
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 agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation's communism as both criminal and philistine. He took his first posting for Russian intelligence in 1968 and eventually became the Soviet Union's top man in London, but from 1973 on he was secretly working for MI6. For nearly a decade, as the Cold War reached its twilight, Gordievsky helped the West turn the tables on the KGB, exposing Russian spies and helping to foil countless intelligence plots, as the Soviet leadership grew increasingly paranoid at the United States's nuclear first-strike capabilities and brought the world closer to the brink of war. Desperate to keep the circle of trust close, MI6 never revealed Gordievsky's name to its counterparts in the CIA, which in turn grew obsessed with figuring out the identity of Britain's obviously top-level source. Their obsession ultimately doomed Gordievsky: the CIA officer assigned to identify him was none other than Aldrich Ames, the man who would become infamous for secretly spying for the Soviets.
Unfolding the delicious three-way gamesmanship between America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and culminating in the gripping cinematic beat-by-beat of Gordievsky's nail-biting escape from Moscow in 1985, Ben Macintyre's latest may be his best yet. Like the greatest novels of John le Carré, it brings readers deep into a world of treachery and betrayal, where the lines bleed between the personal and the professional, and one man's hatred of communism had the power to change the future of nations.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The Spy and the Traitor reads like a particularly juicy season of The Americans, with a twist: It’s all true. Through jaw-dropping first-hand accounts, historian Ben Macintyre tells the story of Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB’s top spy in London, who stealthily switched sides in 1973 and began working for MI6 as a double agent. What unfolds is a white-knuckle thrill ride, from the Brits’ covert efforts to keep Gordievsky alive to the many terrifying Soviet endeavors he managed to foil. The book is just as compulsively readable as Macintyre’s trilogy of World War II-era espionage histories.
Macintyre (Rogue Heroes) recounts the exploits of Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB agent turned British spy responsible for "the single largest operational download' in MI6 history," in this captivating espionage tale. Building on in-depth interviews and other supplementary research, Macintyre shows Gordievsky expertly navigating the "wilderness of mirrors" that made up the daily existence of a Cold War spy passing microfilm, worrying that his wife will turn him in to the KGB, battling an unexpected dosage of truth serum. In Macintyre's telling, Aldrich Ames, the CIA agent turned KGB operative who gave up Gordievsky's cover, functions as a foil and a vehicle for moral comparison between the KGB and MI6. 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. The book has a startling relevancy to the news of the day, from examples of fake news to the 1984 British elections in which "Moscow was prepared to use dirty tricks and hidden interference to swing a democratic election in favor of its chosen candidate." Macintyre has produced a timely and insightful page-turner.
Excellent Non-Fiction Storyteller
One of the best historical accounts I have ever read. Entertained and fascinated nearly throughout the entire book.
Best spy book I’ve read. Excellent. Could not put it down.
An engaging read
I enjoyed the pacing and the references to other cases throughout the story.