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.
©2014 Ben Macintyre (P)2014 Random House Audio
"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)
Fascinated by science.
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.
The narrator is John Lee, who has a very distinctive voice and is a terrific voice actor. The info on both web sites; Audible, and Amazon, tell us that the narrator is John Le Carre! Somebody had a mind slippage there.
In the hands of Ben Macintyre, I think any story would be interesting, but this was so outstanding it was as if I had heard nothing about Kim Philby before. Aided by John Lee's perfect narration and the seal of approval from John le Carre, this book takes you into the private world of Kim Philby, as much as any book can, with wonderful results. Ben Macintyre is a terrific writer, conveying the subtleties of the British secret service in that time period, as well as the very real damage Philby's subterfuge brought on those both close to him and afar. Best book I've read for awhile!
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.
Thoroughly researched bringing in a multitude of viewpoints about the Kim Philby affair. Beautifully written with much delightful English wit and humor tossed in the telling, or quoted from the participants in this incredible (true) yarn.
One confusing annoyance, created by Audible.com describing the contents of the audiobook: they list the narrator as John LeCarre. It is narrated (elegantly) by John Lee. LeCarre provides a postscript but to my ears it sounds like John Lee reading it.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I was thoroughly engrossed in this book, beginning to end. It provided insight into the behind-the- scenes working of those we entrust with our most important political and military secrets. Harold “Kim” Philby (1912-1988) during the 1940’s and 50’s was an officer in the U.K. secret intelligence service (MI6). All the time he was spying for the Soviet Union remitting many damaging Anglo-American secrets to Moscow. Hundreds died because of his treachery.
Ben Macintyre tells the story of Kim Philby a member of the British upper class. His father was linguist who became an advisor of King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia. Philby became a Communist while at Cambridge University. He married Litzi Friedman a Communist of Hungarian Jewish descent. It is claimed she was the one to recruit him as a Soviet spy. Macintyre suggest that although Philby was a sincere Communist, the impelling motive for his treachery was conceit. Cheating people made him feel clever. He betrayed anti-Soviet insurgents in Albania, Georgia, Lithuania, Estonia, Armenia and Ukraine, causing many deaths. The KGB defector Anatoly Golitsyn provided information against Philby in 1962. He made a confession and then escaped to Russia in 1963.
Ben Macintyre was a journalist with the Times of London. He conducted an enormous amount of research and found new sources of information in the office diaries of MI5’s deputy Chief Guy Liddell which became available in 2012. The book ends with an afterword by John le Carrie who worked in MI6 during the same time as Philby. The book reads like a spy novel but it is a solidly researched true story. John Lee does an excellent job narrating the book.
History, historical fiction and mysteries are my faves, but a fan of all genres.
Reads like a novel, John Lee does an excellent job narrating as usual. Highly recommend for anyone interested in this era of history.
This was a fascinating book, and answered a number of questions I'd always had about Kim Philby. For one thing, just how does that work, exactly, going to MI6 everyday and pulling a lie of that magnitude over everybody's eyes, day after day? This book lays it out as well as any I have read about real-life spies, and it goes a long way to connecting the dots of character and action. It read like a spy novel, although it was unexpectedly depressing in parts, because unfortunately, this is all real.
Ben Macintyre did a good job keeping an objective tone throughout. He challenged some of Philby's beliefs and assumptions, but when he did, it came across as reasonable inquiry.
I found this book to have a long and tedious introduction. Many characters were introduced across multiple disconnected anecdotes and it was hard to keep them all straight. I'm usually a huge fan of histories and biographies but found this one, despite the subject matter, to be rather boring. Some of the tales of derring-do and skulduggery were quite gripping; but most of the time it seemed like filler. I get it: there were a LOT of missions and people directly and indirectly affected by Philby's betrayal. By contrast, the end of the book was fascinating. Once Philby was on-the-run the book seemed to finally get it's feet underneath itself and was off and running.
Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. C.S. Lewis
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" was the first book I owned in hardback. And Peter Wright's "Spycatcher" is in my library - and the story behind the book's publishing is almost as good as the printed book.
So I was a little surprised that there was anything left to tell about these rogues. But Ben Macintyre does a great job of storytelling and adds a lot of facts I didn't know or had forgotten.
So much of post WWII politics can be read through the actions and outing of these men. Maybe McCarthy never gains prominence in the U.S. Senate if they hadn't existed. McCarthyism never would have occurred.
Until I read this book, I think I was of the Angleton frame of mind; that Philby was an active poison right up until he defected from Beirut. This is an excellent telling of how Philby SEEMED to fool everyone, andt Macintyre does a great job of showing the toll it took on Philby, and the incredible luck that seemed to follow him everywhere. The amount of alcohol consumed, as Macintyre tells it, is astonishing.
A very good book on a topic that has already been well documented. Kudos to Macintyre for an amazing accomplishment.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.