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

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  39,965 ratings  ·  3,483 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
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published September 18th 2018 by Signal
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North Landesman Yes, if they already knew something about the Cold War. The book assumes prior knowledge.
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Average rating 4.47  · 
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 ·  39,965 ratings  ·  3,483 reviews

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Laura Noggle
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Warning: Do not start the final third unless you have nothing else to do.

Literally could not stop—I was at the edge of my seat.

What. A. Story. Riveting and unputdownable. Reads like a movie instead of a real life tale.

Will be reading more Ben Macintyre.


*EDIT* I've since read FIVE more Macintyre books:
A Spy Among Friends (5 stars),
Operation Mincemeat (5 stars),
Rogue Heroes (5 stars),
Agent Sonya (5 stars), and
Double Cross (3 stars)

— and I'm still looking forward to reading the rest of h
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cold war personnel and favorite uncles
Recommended to Jaidee by: a random and welcome choice
Shelves: five-stars-books
5 " superb, exciting, edge of your seat" stars !!

10th Favorite Read of 2018 Award

Mr. MacIntyre has written a superb and thrilling book about one of our foremost living spies.
Mr. Oleg Gordievsky was Russian KGB that became an agent for M-16 in England and over the course of the Cold War was able to feed England important information that may have led not only to our world being safe from nuclear disaster but perhaps also to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The author was able to interview
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
Alice Lippart
Absolutely riveting!
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
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another fascinating spy story from Ben Macintyre! "The Spy and the Traitor" focuses on Oleg Gordievsky, who was a KGB agent but was also secretly spying for the British intelligence service in the 1970s and 80s.

I didn't know much about Gordievsky before starting this book, which made the true story seem all the more incredible. Previously I had read and enjoyed Macintyre's "A Spy Among Friends," which was about Kim Philby, a British agent who was secretly spying for the KGB.

If you are intereste
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
This is this the second book by Ben Mcintyre I have listened to recently. The first one was Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy. Again, this book focuses on a real life spy story. In this case, the focus is a Soviet agent who becomes a double agent and provided secrets to the British government during the 1980s.. Macintyre traces the agent’s background, how he changed sides and how he was betrayed. I liked Agent Sonya a bit more — perhaps because she was a woman and such an unlikely sp ...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
Andrew Smith
Mar 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The true story of Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB agent for the USSR who turned spy and provided information to the British Secret Intelligence Service from 1974 to 1985. This book reads like a spy thriller and I had to keep reminding myself that the events described here actually happened. In fact some of the coincidences, mistakes and lucky turns of fate feel so unlikely that had it been a novel penned by John le Carré I’d have been crying foul, moaning about how contrived the story was. This truly is ...more
Alex Givant
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent account on life of Oleg Gordievsky (if you want to check for his autobiography - check Next Stop Execution: The Autobiography of Oleg Gordievsky). Ben Macintyre knows how to write about spies - what make them moving and doing stuff they did. Another great books just finished recently is A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. Both are highly recommended. ...more
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
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could bottle the feeling of exhilaration I had while reading this atmospheric, tense, unbelievable but true spy thriller. It's the kind of story John le Carré wrote, the kind of geopolitical map that still animates strategy games decades after the end of the Cold War, and the kind of slow burn that every TV showrunner is trying to conjure up. I don't want to spoil it by summarizing, but as for why it's not a bestseller, I can only hypothesize that it is a fairly long book that requires ...more
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another excellent spy story by Macintyre. This one was harder to get into for me than his others- so many Russian names, places, organizational schools or government entities. But it's still an enthralling review of this man's family, life, associations etc. It is SO telling that he (and his mother in a former era) had huge misgivings about Russian authoritarian systems and found that they could never express them openly. Or only in rare tangents to those who they loved, most trusted etc. And th ...more
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. ...more
Oleg Gordievsky is one of the most valuable spies ever recruited by a Western intelligence agency. He provided Britain’s MI6 with invaluable information for over ten years beginning in the mid 1970’s when the “Cold War” was being waged between the East and West. Because he was a colonel in the KGB, Gordievsky was privy to highly secret information which he then passed on to MI6. This information had repercussions which lasted well into the future, and was beneficial to numerous Western countries ...more
Cold Medina
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it
to enjoy this book fully, I recommend skipping ahead often
Jeanette Lewis
Oct 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5+ stars for this fabulous read.

You just can't make this stuff up. The life of Oleg Gordievsky reads like every Spy novel ever written and more! The author has great observation seemingly slipping into the shoes of this world renowned spy identifying the danger, emotional struggles and self doubt while all the time living with the all encompassing lie of his existence.

What motivated a KGB Officer to become a traitor against his country and a spy for MI6? The author leaves no doubt that there wer
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is brilliant. First of all, the actual story is so gripping that no James Bond movie or John Le Carre novel can hold a candle against it. Sometimes, when we see similar things on the screen we say “no way” in a dismissive smug manner, but the Gordievsky tale is all this and more. Simply unbelievable!!
However, it also takes a very skilled researcher and narrator to tell this story so well. Macintyre has taken a vast number of facts and opinions and have presented them in a very clean, s
Jon Norimann
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime, politics
The Spy and the Traitor is an excellent spy thriller and documentary in one. MacIntyre chronicles the life and work of Oleg Gordievsky, one of the wests most effective spies inside the Soviet Union during the cold war. Good writing gives this documentary as much supsense as any made up spy story. In addition it gives some insight into politics in the cold war era. The length is about right with reading time in hours in the high single digits.

A good book anyone interested in spies or the cold war
Riveting story of Cold War espionage between MI6 and the KGB, centering around a KGB agent who defected to Britain. The British audiobook narrator had a wonderful plummy accent. I sped my way through the 13 hours of the book!
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, vine, non-fiction
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
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
Feb 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Paranoia is born of propaganda, ignorance, secrecy and fear.”

“In a craven and hierarchical organization, the only thing more dangerous in revealing your own ignorance, is to draw attention to the stupidity of the boss.”

There's a quote on the cover of The Spy and the Traitor by the great British spy novelist John Le Carré that reads: "The best true spy story I have ever read." Ben Macintyre's book on KGB careerist-turned-spy for the British Oleg Gordievsky is exactly that. The gripping story co
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want an insight into the weird world of real-life espionage, this book could be it. The author knows how to put together a nonfiction story so that it would be engaging and informative all at the same time. In the beginning, I found the tone a little bit dry but by the end, it kinda went the opposite direction and seemed a bit romanticized. I have to admit that I was at times equally astonished and frustrated by the whole espionage business. The paranoia, lies, falsification, and above al ...more
Nov 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020, non-fiction
This story really does make you realise how little you know about what a truly going on around you. And that I still don’t know jack shit about history.

We learn the life of Oleg Gordievsky; the kgb agent who stated to spy for Britain during the height of the Cold War. We learn about his early years; the Warsaw Pact and his direct impact on the events of history.

This dragged for me for a little way. It was so fact based and fast moving that it took me a little while to settle into the rhythm of
A  man dressed in a drab grey suit standing in a street corner in the middle of Moscow looking like the other citizens passing him by would have been almost unnoticeable, but because he was holding a plastic bag from the British supermarket, Safeway, for the people looking out for him he stood out like a beacon. He was not a regular Soviet citizen, he was a senior KGB officer and he had just activated his escape plan. He now had to hope that his signal had been noticed by those who needed to see ...more
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Macintyre does it again - taking a wonderful story little known to the public, researching it thoroughly and writing it masterfully to create a suspenseful read that takes your breath away. He helps the reader get the full background that would enable them to put things into the right perspective and understand why the story is so important. Macintyre is generous towards the people who are part of the story, showing up the brilliance, professionalism and courage involved in what they were doing. ...more
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-reads
Do yourself a favor and read this book. I mean, come on. When John Le Carre says it's, “the best true spy story I have ever read" what are you waiting for?

So, really, I liked Macintyre's earlier book "A Spy Among Friends" better than this one but only because it was the first time I've read spy nonfiction and I was blown away by the wackadoodle world in which these guys (and gals) live. This one wasn't any less wackadoodle but it wasn't as shocking and surprising as the first one I read.

Oleg G
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Ben Macintyre is a writer-at-large for The Times (U.K.) and the bestselling author of The Spy and the Traitor, 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.

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