Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Guest Review: The Spy and the Traitor

Summary: 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.

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 CarrĂ©, 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. -- Crown

I guess I'm not alone with reading less lately. Booking Pap Pap is in the exact same boat. Neither one of us are pounding out books like we used to; however, he did manage to get a few books read recently... so you'll see a few guest reviews from him in the next few weeks! One of the books he read was a spy story called THE SPY AND THE TRAITOR by Ben Macintyre. Here are his thoughts:

 THE SPY AND THE TRAITOR, The Greatest Espionage Story of The Cold War, is a non-fiction thriller about Oleg Gordievsky, a Soviet KGB agent who turned to spy for England. Oleg grew up in a family dedicated to the communist party and therefore were privileged and secure. In 1961, at age 22, Gordievsky was sent to Soviet controlled East Berlin for a six-month work experience which coincided with the building of the Berlin Wall to prevent mass defections to the west. The image of the wall and what it stood for made a lasting impression on Oleg. Never considering any other career, he followed his father and brother into the KGB ranks in 1962. After several years of mundane work at the KGB headquarters, in late 1965, Gordievsky was assigned to a post managing a network of undercover spies in Denmark. It was during this assignment that he became somewhat disillusioned with the Soviet system after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia and became enamored with the West. In 1970, Oleg returned to his old desk in the Soviet Union only to be reassigned to Denmark in late 1972 and later, in 1982, promoted to head the London office. It was during this time in Denmark that Gordievsky was willingly recruited and cultivated by Britain’s intelligence agency, MI6. Gordievsky worked as a double agent for 11 years until in 1985 he was recalled to Moscow for a meeting. It was upon arrival that he realized he had been betrayed and was under suspicion by the KGB. Gordievsky made an incredible escape from Moscow with the help of MI6. He left his family in Moscow and was reunited six years later; however the marriage did not survive the turmoil. He learned much later that he was “outed” by American double agent Aldrich Ames. Today he resides in England under a sentence of death from Russia.

Oleg Gordievsky is probably the highest ranked KGB intelligence officer ever “handled” by any Western country. He provided intelligence that impacted Soviet/Western nation relationships during one of the most critical periods of the Cold War. Decisions made by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev were largely influenced by information provided by Gordievsky.

THE SPY AND THE TRAITOR is a great example of the “wheres and whys” of espionage as it existed during the Cold War. I was amazed at the number of Soviet and Western spies who were double agents. I was also surprised to read that the tactics we often see in spy movies like dissolving paper, message drops in strange places and miniature cameras were actually part of real-world espionage. This thriller, based on a true story, is fast-paced and rivals any fictional novel for intrigue and adventure. I would recommend THE SPY AND THE TRAITOR to any reader who has interest in the operation of the KGB and MI6 or has an interest in history.

Thanks to Booking Pap Pap for his review and to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

Oooh, nonfiction. I think I'd love this one.