Master storyteller Ben Macintyre's most ambitious work to date offers a powerful new angle on the 20th century's greatest spy story.
Kim Philby was the greatest spy in history, a brilliant and charming man who rose to head Britain's counterintelligence against the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War - while he was secretly working for the enemy. And nobody thought he knew Philby like Nicholas Elliott, Philby's best friend and fellow officer in MI6. The two men had gone to the same schools, belonged to the same exclusive clubs, grown close through the crucible of wartime intelligence work and long nights of drink and revelry. It was madness for one to think the other might be a communist spy, bent on subverting Western values and the power of the free world.
But Philby was secretly betraying his friend. Every word Elliott breathed to Philby was transmitted back to Moscow - and not just Elliott's words, for in America, Philby had made another powerful friend: James Jesus Angleton, the crafty, paranoid head of CIA counterintelligence. Angleton's and Elliott's unwitting disclosures helped Philby sink almost every important Anglo-American spy operation for twenty years, leading countless operatives to their doom. Even as the web of suspicion closed around him, and Philby was driven to greater lies to protect his cover, his two friends never abandoned him - until it was too late. The stunning truth of his betrayal would have devastating consequences on the two men who thought they knew him best, and on the intelligence services he left crippled in his wake.
Told with heart-pounding suspense and keen psychological insight, and based on personal papers and never-before-seen British intelligence files, A Spy Among Friends is Ben Macintyre's best book yet, a high-water mark in Cold War history telling.
"No one writes about deceit and subterfuge so dramatically, authoritatively or perceptively [as Ben Macintyre]. To read A Spy Among Friends is a bit like climbing aboard a runaway train in terms of speed and excitement–except that Macintyre knows exactly where he is going and is in total control of his material." (The Daily Mail)
"A Spy Among Friends, a classic spookfest, is also a brilliant reconciliation of history and entertainment… An unputdownable postwar thriller whose every incredible detail is fact not fiction." (The Observer)
"Macintyre's focus on friendship brings an intimacy to this book that is missing from the cardboard stereotypes that populate spy novels and conventional espionage histories… I'm not a lover of spy novels, yet I adored this book." (The Times of London)
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The Greatest Spy -- Ever Discovered
I must say at the outset that John Lee is the perfect narrator for this book. He is clear, properly British, and adds just enough inflection to what you would expect from a spy story.Ben Macintyre, in turn, has written a book which gives you great insight into the personalities of Philby and those around him. You come away both admiring Philby and deeply detesting him. MI5, during World War II, pulled off amazing stunts of extremely effective trickery against Germany, but then after the war Philby and friends managed to destroy one of the greatest intelligence services in the world. This is his story and one you will not soon forget.Let us hope there are not other, even more capable spies working against us in these current times.
- Michael Eaton
Reads like a spy novel
Probably not--I do not listen to books again (because I have so many new ones to read!)
It was a thrilling book. I wanted to listen to the entire book in one sitting because I wanted to know what happened (even though I knew the story). It really was written like a spy novel.
It was not so much a scene as a theme that was compelling. The idea that Philby was "one of them" in background and status and therefore was treated with kid gloves which allowed him to continue to commit treason even after he was brought back into MI6 because he was "cleared". And that even when they knew he was guilty, because of who he was, he somehow deserved a lighter punishment than others who were not as bad as he was.
The epilogue by the author John LeCarre, who had been in MI5 for a period--he met with Elliot (Philby's close friend and MI6 colleague) when they were both older. Elliot's continuing nonchalance about what he allowed to happen, and his recollection of how much he enjoyed being with Philby (Elliot's loose lips when they were drinking allowed Philby to know many secrets) was amazing. It was frustrating to see how the good old boy's club allowed so many to lose their lives.
- Kate M.