The Oldie - - HISTORY -

BEN MACIN­TYRE Vik­ing, 384pp, £25, Oldie price £14.96 inc p&p

This is not just a bi­og­ra­phy of Oleg Gordievsky, the most valu­able Soviet de­fec­tor of the Cold War, but a dual por­trait of Gordievsky and CIA traitor Aldrich Ames. Dis­il­lu­sioned after the Prague Spring, Gordievsky started spy­ing for Bri­tain in 1974 and de­fected in 1985, while Ames, who was driven by ma­te­rial greed, spied for the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1994. ‘Macin­tyre has ter­rific ma­te­rial to work with, and in gen­eral he keeps a firm grip on it,’ wrote Dorothy Gal­lagher in the New York Times. ‘But in re­count­ing ev­ery as­pect of es­pi­onage trade­craft, in ad­di­tion to each prob­lem that arises in the courtship of Gordievsky by Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence and the his­to­ries of all of the many MI6 agents who ran him, not to men­tion the ever-so-com­pli­cated de­tails of Gordievsky’s “ex­fil­tra­tion” from the Soviet Union, Macin­tyre’s story some­times bogs down.’

Spec­ta­tor re­viewer Gor­don Cor­era found that Macin­tyre ‘brings the story to life in vivid tech­ni­color with fas­ci­nat­ing new de­tails. He tells it with all the verve we have come to ex­pect from such an ac­com­plished writer. As well as Gordievsky him­self, Macin­tyre says he has had the as­sis­tance of all the liv­ing MI6 of­fi­cers who worked on the case. This pro­vides an un­usu­ally de­tailed sense of what the re­la­tion­ship be­tween an agent and a spy ser­vice re­ally looks like.’ In his re­view for the Guardian, Luke Hard­ing praised the book for re­veal­ing ‘the dra­matic role played by MI6 in re­cruit­ing and cul­ti­vat­ing a serv­ing KGB in­sider – and keep­ing him alive against the odds. Gordievsky’s Bri­tish con­tacts were a colour­ful bunch. Some were up­per­class cold war ad­ven­tur­ers. Oth­ers were gifted work­ing-class lin­guists re­cruited from Oxbridge. Women played a cru­cial part. All re­alised Gordievsky was unique… The re­sult is a daz­zling non-fic­tion thriller and an in­ti­mate por­trait of high-stakes es­pi­onage.’

‘He brings the story to life in vivid tech­ni­color with fas­ci­nat­ing new de­tails’

Oleg Gordievsky: most valu­able spy

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