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

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  32,465 ratings  ·  2,800 reviews
A thrilling Cold War story about a KGB double agent, by one of Britain's greatest historians

On a warm July evening in 1985, a middle-aged man stood on the pavement of a busy avenue in the heart of Moscow, holding a plastic carrier bag. In his grey suit and tie, he looked like any other Soviet citizen. The bag alone was mildly conspicuous, printed with the red logo of Safew
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Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published September 20th 2018 by Penguin (first published September 18th 2018)
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Average rating 4.47  · 
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 ·  32,465 ratings  ·  2,800 reviews


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Jaidee
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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Laura Noggle
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 two more Macintyre books, A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal (5 stars) and Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies (3 stars) — and am still looking forward to the rest of his books.
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Susan
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!
Lou
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Diane
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Cindy Burnett
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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Alex Givant
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Jeanette
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Andrew
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Cheryl
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
Emily
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
ben
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jeanette Lewis
Oct 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Kate
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
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Jon Norimann
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Sara
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!
Julie
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, non-fiction, vine
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
Laura
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
...more
Lita
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
Katie.dorny
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
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Paul
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
AdiTurbo
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
Kalen
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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Kolumbina
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
...more
Nic
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I have read in a long, long time.
Jaksen
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of the spy who turned into an ally. Oleg Gordievsky, KGB agent, stationed in Denmark and then the UK, who slowly realizes the lies he's been told: about the West, about democracy, about his own home nation, Russia, the Soviet Union (as it was known then), and then confronts some startling truths about himself, the result of which is that he...

Wait for it.

Decides to turn and spy for the West, for Great Britain, the UK, and slowly divulge everything he knows about the KGB and its multitu
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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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