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An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  143 ratings  ·  20 reviews
The thrilling true story of Richard Sorge - the man John le Carré called 'the spy to end spies', and whose actions turned the tide of the Second World War

Richard Sorge was a man with two homelands. Born of a German father and a Russian mother in Baku in 1895, he moved in a world of shifting alliances and infinite possibility. A member of the angry and deluded generation
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published December 10th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As much as I enjoy reading books on military history, I also enjoy reading books on wartime spies. This was a great as well as an interesting book. Up until I read this book, I never heard of Richard Sorge. Richard Sorge was one of Joseph Stalin's top wartime spies in the Soviet Union. He infiltrated the highest in the German, Chinese, and Japanese military and gathered pivotal information regarding Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union and crucial in the Soviet ...more
Mal Warwick
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Who was the greatest spy of the twentieth century?

Was it Kim Philby (1912-88), who served Moscow for three decades? Philby’s revelations led to the execution of numberless British and American agents behind the Iron Curtain, and his defection in 1963 pushed the CIA’s James Jesus Angleton over the abyss into the full-blown paranoia that almost destroyed the Agency.

Or was it Eli Cohen (1924-65), whose undercover work in Damascus helped Tel Aviv win the lightning Arab-Israeli war in 1967?

How about
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An absorbing, easy read packed with previously unknown information. Sorge (pronounced Zorgae, as the author told a recent talk) was a fanatical Communist, a hard drinking, womaniser who took crazy risks with the network that he had built up.

Matthews' research has found the records from the GRU files in Podolsk that show that Sorge was largely untrusted by his Moscow handlers, due to his connection with many purged Soviet officials and the inability of his service chiefs to tell Stalin anything
Apr 22, 2019 rated it liked it
The first few hundred pages I found were hard reading but eventually once I got my head around the multiple names and plans I enjoyed this book.
It wasn't as 'unputdownable' as a Ben Macintyre book but actually I have probably learnt quite a bit more from this one. I always wondered how Japan fitted into the WW2 and whilst I'm still not 100%, I am someway to understanding. One of the most confusing things about this time I think are all the non-aggression pacts being signed, it's hard to
piet van genderen
Over de Russische superspion Richard Sorge zijn al talloze boeken verschenen, maar de toegang tot voorheen gesloten archieven maakt dit verhaal heel bijzonder. Naast de activiteiten van Sorge en zijn spionnenring wordt uitvoerig ingegaan op politieke ontwikkelingen, vooral tussen Rusland, Duitsland en Japan. Een fascinerend boek.
David Wasley
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
How a charming, ruthless risk taker hoodwinked the intelligence services of Germany, China and Japan and obtained stupendous confidential information. This book is packed with names and details. I didn't find it an easy read but am glad I perservered.
Peter Grimbeek
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It is a wonder that Richard Sorge survived working as a Soviet spy, both in Germany and Japan, as long as he did. The book makes the case that one would have to be mad in the way that he was to have done so.
An excellent biography of the famous soviet spy - read quite a few of them from the (hagiographic but still entertaining ) Russian ones almost four decades ago to more recent western ones and this one is entertaining and well written with the special touch the author brings from his Russian side of the family (as his grandmother was a neighbor of one of Sorge's handlers in the Soviet intelligence for example);

highly recommended whether one is new to the life and deeds of the arguably greatest
Jane Griffiths
Richard Sorge, the flawed master

I suppose all spies are flawed masters. Richard Sorge, a German born in Baku, and a spy for Moscow for years in China and then Japan, was one of the true masters. He lasted seven years in Tokyo, and it was not his weakness but that of a confrère that betrayed him. In the end it seems Moscow simply forgot about him. Before, of course, hagiographising him some years later. Sorge, with his drinking and womanising, hid in plain sight. That's the way to do it. A
Oct 19, 2019 rated it liked it
A bit clunky in parts, and a slightly tightened up narrative or extra run through from an editor could have taken this from good to great.

That said, damn. What a compelling life Richard Sorge led. That he could have offered so much of value, yet been derided, ignored, and forgotten is a bit sobering. If one of the best spies ever was wasted in so many ways, it really takes away from the "glamor" of the lifestyle.
Ethan Everhart
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Strongest when it lets Sorge and the other characters speak for themselves, and falls into the trap of a lot of history of the time period of repeating the common anti-USSR narratives of the start of the war, but overall a very fascinating and well-sourced biography of a fascinating person.
Pierre Lauzon
Jan 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Incredibly researched and an historical piece glimpsing into the period from the 1920s to the end of World War II.

The book had almost too much information at times - trying to keep the players straight was difficult. This book could become a very interesting movie.
Martin Ceglinski
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very enjoyable book which showed the path of Sorges rise to the heights of classical spycraft. Easy to read and difficult to put down. I got through this book in a few sittings and leave this book with a vision of not only Richard, but of his close circle as well.
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Extremely well researched and beautifully written. Reads like a thriller , I could not put it down. The author really knows Japan.
Ian Lambert
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
I've wanted to know more about this character since I was quite young. Accurate information was in short supply in those days for reasons which are apparent in this book. Thanks Owen!
Ash Lucas
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best spy biographies I have ever read, outstanding.
Neil Bradford
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. A fascinating story compellingly told.
Andrew Holmes
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An amazing insight into the character of and pressures on a top spy. It also gives a very good feel for the purges and paranoia of the Stalin era in Russia.
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellently researched!
Ed Marohn
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good take on real espionage during the 1930-45 time frame by one of the famous spies: Richard Sorge.
As a history buff I felt the author did a great job expounding on the world events leading to WWII and Sorge's role in it.
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Owen Matthews is a British writer, historian and journalist. His first book, Stalin's Children, was shortlisted for the 2008 Guardian First Books Award, the Orwell Prize for political writing, and France's Prix Medicis Etranger. His books have been translated into 28 languages. He is a former Moscow and Istanbul Bureau Chief for Newsweek Magazine. Matthews has lectured on Russian history and ...more