Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War” as Want to Read:
The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  15,142 ratings  ·  1,465 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
...more
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published September 20th 2018 by Penguin (first published September 18th 2018)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Spy and the Traitor, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
North Landesman Yes, if they already knew something about the Cold War. The book assumes prior knowledge.…moreYes, if they already knew something about the Cold War. The book assumes prior knowledge. (less)
Bettie Visit your bezos bazaar to check that out - GoodReads is not a shop - yet
:O/
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  15,142 ratings  ·  1,465 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War
Jaidee (Away from Goodreads until Feb 2...happy reading)
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: cold war personnel and favorite uncles
Recommended to Jaidee (Away from Goodreads until Feb 2...happy reading) 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
...more
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 ...more
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
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
...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 ...more
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 ...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
...more
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.
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 ...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.
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
...more
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!
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
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
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,
...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 ...more
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
Jon Norimann
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...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
...more
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
...more
Mark
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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!
Samuel
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dumbledore11214
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
...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 would take your breath away. He helps the reader get the full background that would enable him 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 ...more
Stijn Zanders
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jamie
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Maine Colonial
I don’t know how he does it, but Ben Macintyre has once again produced a dazzling tale of 20th-century espionage that is more gripping than any thriller novel or movie. I also don’t know why I don’t remember media reports of Oleg Gordievsky’s escape from Russia to Britain, because it’s a stunner.

Macintyre tells Gordievsky’s story of following his father’s and brother’s footsteps to become a KGB officer; becoming disenchanted with his agency and country as a result of witnessing the building of
...more
Henri
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
Truly spectacular!

I never have read a single Ben Macintyre work but will surely aqcuire a few and get to them promptly. This was a staggeringly beautiful and prosaic page-turner. Non-Fiction that reads like your ordinary spy thriller but is indeed based on fact. I could not put it down for two days straight and sat engrossed till late at night both times. Highly recommended to anyone that likes a bit of history non-fiction but does not necessarily want to plunge into a heavily academic work -
...more
Paul
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed two things about this one. First, Macintyre has a way of explaining the rudimentary skills of spy-craft without dumbing it down at all. He seamlessly integrates the information into the narrative of Oleg’s life. Second, I was amazed at the depth of this story. Not only the number of people and plots Oleg’s information was able to put down, but the vast threads of influence that went into protecting him, and a couple who threatened his identity.

An amazing story that should see
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Agent Running in the Field
  • Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World
  • Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
  • The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal
  • Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster
  • A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II
  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
  • Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice
  • An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent
  • On Desperate Ground: The Marines at The Reservoir, the Korean War's Greatest Battle
  • Best of Enemies: The Last Great Spy Story of the Cold War
  • Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler
  • Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe
  • Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know
  • The Second Sleep
  • Red Diamond: The True Story of Cold War Berlin’s Most Audacious Espionage Operation
  • Metropolis (Bernie Gunther, #14)
  • In the Enemy's House
See similar books…
1,036 followers
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.
“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” 2 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
More quotes…