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

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  21,551 ratings  ·  2,039 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 4.50  · 
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 ·  21,551 ratings  ·  2,039 reviews

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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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it
to enjoy this book fully, I recommend skipping ahead often. like many accounts of true stories, it delves into entire backstories of side characters or drowns us in detail, which only grinds down the pace of the book. other than that it was great
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
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
Jon Norimann
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, crime
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!
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
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vine, own, 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
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
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
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The books about spys were never on the top of my reading pile.
This book was recommended to me by Chris, a lovely old lady who walks her dog Chloe and always stops for a little chat.
An interesting book, a lot of detail, a lot of people, a true story. Great descriptions of places, especially Denmark (remembered some of the places). Also in Russia, I visited Russia in 1980es (wasn't aware of many things at the time) the book brought a lot of memories.
Also a very rich book, well written and well p
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 6-stars, favorites
I am an avid reader of espionage novels Le Carre, Len Deighton, Mick Herron, Charles Cumming, Ken Follett, Robert Harris to name a few... But have never strayed into the murky waters of a true spy story, but I am so happy that I did, this is an incredible true story, magnificently told by Ben Macintyre.

I'll definitely be reading more of his books!
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good non fiction book about the one spy who survived death by Aldrich Ames. Quite possibly the finest hour of the SIS in the Cold War, an example of how asset cultivation and handling is done right and how sometimes, even when the odds seem high, it's perfectly possible to bring one spy in from the cold.
David Quinn
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good from beginning to end. Macintyre tells the Gordievsky story in a measured pace and the narrative unfolds nicely. We learn of his early career along with the people that influenced his political beliefs. The first half of the book builds the foundation of the man at its center while the second half provides the thrilling intrigue.

Anyone unfamiliar with Gordievsky, as I was, should avoid the pictures and captions until the end (in the kindle version they're at the end of the book) and t
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Definitely the best book I've read so far this year - it was like a thriller movie in words with all the right characters and pacing that immediately sucked me in and didn't let me go until the final word. I also loved learning more about the Cold War - it's crazy to think about how much worse it could have been had it not been for the efforts of a handful of people and one spy.
Stijn Zanders
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-read-2019
A remarkable story laid out perfectly in this book. It is very interesting to read how this double spy influenced the cold war in a big way. It is one of the best books I have read thus far this year.
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read in a long, long time.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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Ben Macintyre is a writer-at-large for The Times of London and the bestselling author of 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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Summer is a great time to lose yourself in a page-turning mystery. To help you sleuth out a new read, we asked five of the season’s hottest myst...
12 likes · 4 comments
“Lenin is often credited with coining the term “useful idiot,” poleznyi durak in Russian, meaning one who can be used to spread propaganda without being aware of it or subscribing” 4 likes
“At the age of nineteen, Gordievsky took up cross-country running. Something about the solitary nature of the sport appealed to him, the rhythm of intense exertion over a long period, in private competition with himself, testing his own limits.” 2 likes
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