The Spy And The Traitor By Ben Macintyre

The Spy And The Traitor By Ben Macintyre
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The most thrilling spy book I've ever read (and I'm not exaggerating). From the moment you read the first page, Ben Macintyre transports you into a world of mystery and anonymity. The book is nonfiction but reads like a Stephen King thriller; primarily because of Macintyre's engaging writing style.

Ben Macintyre lays the premise of "The Spy and The Traitor" through a very intriguing prologue, where he introduces us to Oleg Gordievsky, a native Russian spy who serves as a double agent for the British intelligence service, otherwise known as MI6. From there, Macintyre applies the foundation for a developed Gordievsky, by detailing his early life and his upbringing in the KGB. Macintyre seems to have done his research as he routinely inserts commentary on historical events like "The Prague Spring" and provides details about other important cold war events. If you are a history buff (specifically 20th-century events like the Russian Revolution or the cold war) then you will thoroughly enjoy "The Spy and The Traitor".

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Deep down inside, Oleg Gordievsky is a Western sympathizer who longs for the ability to experience Western culture. He gets his chance when he is sent to Copenhagen Denmark (the pinnacle of Western prosperity) on a task to communicate with KGB operatives known as "Illegals". Gordievsky becomes obsessed with Western life, specifically Western literature. Macintyre details how operatives communicate in public through the use of objects. Gordievsky's communication with the KGB operatives is crucial as he is the one tasked with making sure operations are in motion. For instance, a certain fruit or object left under a park bench could signify that an operative is in trouble or that he is leaving the country.  

It is later revealed that from the moment Oleg Gordievsky arrived in Copenhagen, he was flagged by the Danish intelligence agency (referred to as PET in the novel) as a KGB spy. PET begins to track Gordievsky who soon catches on. However, he soon realizes that this is his chance to make communication with the West and invoke his rage against the communist system that destroyed his father, so he comes up with a plan. The book also spends time talking about notorious double agent Aldrich Ames who betrayed the CIA by working with the KGB as a double agent.

A Photo of Oleg Gordievsky (Image Credits)

The book is extremely well written, due mostly to the fact that it is a nonfiction biography that reads as if it's a fictional thriller. Macintyre accomplishes this primarily due to his fast-paced and concise writing style. Little time is spent covering uninteresting or irrelevant topics. Every page feels like it was done with deliberation and purpose. Anytime throughout the book where I became bored and wondered why is he rambling on about this person that seems so insignificant to the plot. I would quickly be shunned as that "insignificant person" would appear just a few pages later and play an important role in the main plot.

Macintyre again in a novel-like sense has the reader rooting for the success of Oleg Gordievsky. He taps into their inner life and hobbies allowing the reader to feel as if they know Gordievsky on a personal level. For instance, when we are first introduced to Gordievsky, Macintyre reveals that he has a passion for long-distance running. Later in the book, Macintyre re-introduces that element of Gordievsky's character to further the story. Never have I seen before, an author who utilizes a personal feature of a character to advance the story so successfully as Ben Macintyre does in "The Spy and The Traitor".

A Photo of Aldrich Ames (Image Credits)

If you are fascinated with cold war history or  just want a thrilling espionage story, then I can't recommend a more fitting book than "The Spy and The Traitor." The plot is fast-paced and avoids irrelevant and mundane sections. Oleg Gordievsky is a fascinating person that seems almost fictional. Gordievsky's relationship with MI6 provides insight into the UK-Soviet relations at the time and the distrust present between the two nations. I thoroughly recommend this book and hope that if you were on the fence about purchasing this book, you choose to do so. This really is the most thrilling spy book I've ever read.



Book Length-10/10

Writing Style-9/10

Cumulative Score-36.5/40

The Spy and The Traitor

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