The Spy and the Traitor by Ben MacIntyre

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold WarThe Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is by far the best book I’ve read in many months, perhaps years. It is outlandish and unbelievable, yet it has the added distinction of being absolutely true. It is the story of a KGB agent who spied for England. When I joined the FBI this is the kind of case I hoped one day to be involved in. It never came to pass, because this is the sort of case that happens once in a lifetime to an intelligence agency and only a tiny handful of people ever know about it at the time due to its absolute secrecy.

The beginning is well-written, but unexciting, setting the stage by introducing the characters and refreshing for us the realpolitik history of the Reagan-Thatcher-Andropov-Gorbachev era. I remember it well, but younger readers will find it eye-opening. By the second half of the book, the tension ramps up. PIMLICO, the mole, rises in the KGB and becomes more valuable, while at the same time the intelligence he provides puts him at greater risk as it is used. He is eventually put in peril. As it happens, western intelligence has its own mole betraying its secrets to the KGB. I’ll leave it there to avoid spoilers, but rest assured the last third of the book is a page turner. Do yourself a favor and don’t read through the photographs until the very end, as they contain some spoilers for what comes later.

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