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The Master Spy: The Story of Kim Philby

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  145 ratings  ·  10 reviews
In the bestselling tradition of Spy Catcher, The Master Spy recounts the entire Kim Philby story as revealed to the only Western journalist Philby trusted.
Paperback, 292 pages
Published February 19th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1988)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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Bought this at a second-hand bookshop in Brisbane, because Philby was one of the Cambridge Four, and I loved the TV Show Cambridge Spies. The real story of Philby as presented in this book is even more thrilling than the TV (although the "Four" were far less connected in real life, which spoils the story a little). And of course, the focus is on Philby, rather than split between them, although Burgess, MacLean and Blunt all get their moments (less Blunt than I would have liked, but that's just t ...more
Erik Graff
Jul 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: espionage fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
This is a sympathetic biography of 'Kim' Philby, a KGB agent since the thirties and the most successful of the Cambridge spies who penetrated the British Foreign Office, MI5, MI6 and, through them, the American CIA and FBI through World War II and well into the Cold War. So successful were they in relaying secrets to the Soviets that it may have been better had the UK and USA not bothered withholding information from them during the war years.

In addition to portraying such a traitor as Philby wi
Ironman Ninetytwo
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
When I first read this umpteen years ago, it took me forever because it was so ~~~tedious~~~. I didn't find it tedious this time; it was kind of poignant. Philby seems to be a pretty true believer, if unbelievably full of himself and so harmful to his friends, even those who knew he was a spy. He had a way with women, much to their ultimate chagrin I am sure.
Veteran foreign correspondent Richard Beeston has chosen to discuss Phillip Knightley's The Master Spy: The Story of Kim Philby on FiveBooks on his list of five books on Spies, Lies and Foreign correspondents, saying that:

"Knightley says he’s the only Western journalist to interview Philby in depth after his defection to the Soviet Union in 1963. The book describes Philby as ‘an establishment figure who betrayed the West, who decided to go against his class and his upbringing for what he belie
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: espionage
With the renewed interest in Kim Philby triggered by the hugely successful "A Spy Among Friends", I thought it would be interesting to read this book, as it is often quoted in ASAF. It was written by a British journalist who not only corresponded with Philby, but actually got to meet him and interview him extensively in Moskow in the 1980s. This was also the period when many secret documents were first being released, and so the story was being gradually pieced together. Similarly, there were st ...more
Colin Mitchell
A book based on a series of interviews with Philby in Moscow before his death. It didn't seem to say more than any number of similar books on the subject of spies who penetrated the British and Us security services from the 1930's through to the 1960's. My view is that these accounts seek to lionise the traitors and justify their actions. In Philby's case which sent many agents to their deaths. Unfortunately, it also says much about the lax vetting and recruitment practices.

This book is well pre
Mister Responsible
The amazing story of Kim Philby -- who was in charge of an important section of the British secret service, and who was also a spy for the Soviets. I didn't know anything about Kim Philby before reading some British cold war history recently, and I was amazed that I had never heard about him, either in popular culture or in school. (I grew up in the 1980's, when the Soviet Union was still around and people were still afraid of its influence in the world.)

Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great read. Author does a good job telling the story of Philby's life, alternating back and forth from the story of Philby's early life and his final interview in Moscow years after he had defected to the USSR. This enables Knightley to not only tell the narrative story, but allows Philby to comment on his motivations at key moments in his own life story. Really enjoyed this read.
Carlos Santos
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The books get's off to a slow start just like a tank but by the time you get rolling it's unstoppable. Such a remarkable real life story about a remarkable individual. I can't get enough recounts of this time period, so exciting in many ways. I thoroughly enjoyed the read.
Aggie Herda
Very interesting.
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Phillip Knightley was a special correspondent for The Sunday Times for 20 years (1965-85) and one of the leaders of its Insight investigative team. He was twice named Journalist of the Year (1980 and 1988) in the British Press Awards. He and John Pilger are the only journalists ever to have won it twice.

He was also Granada Reporter of the Year (1980), Colour Magazine Writer of the Year (1982), hol