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Publisher's Summary

A thrilling Cold War story about a KGB double agent, by one of Britain's greatest historians.

On a warm July evening in 1985, a middle-aged man stood on the pavement of a busy avenue in the heart of Moscow, holding a plastic carrier bag. In his grey suit and tie, he looked like any other Soviet citizen. The bag alone was mildly conspicuous, printed with the red logo of Safeway, the British supermarket.

The man was a spy. A senior KGB officer, for more than a decade he had supplied his British spymasters with a stream of priceless secrets from deep within the Soviet intelligence machine. No spy had done more to damage the KGB. The Safeway bag was a signal: to activate his escape plan to be smuggled out of Soviet Russia. So began one of the boldest and most extraordinary episodes in the history of spying. Ben Macintyre reveals a tale of espionage, betrayal and raw courage that changed the course of the Cold War forever.... 

©2018 Ben MacIntyre (P)2018 Penguin Books Ltd

Critic Reviews

"The best true spy story I have ever read." (John Le Carré)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Exciting!

Informative, exciting story. Well told & narrated. We listened during a long & boring drive. We could hardly wait to get in the car after each stop.

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Brilliant Audio Book

This book is brilliant well worth reading ,it gave a great insight on the workings of the KGB and how fragile relations were between east and west

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Leave a beer capsule under the bench in the park

This book is as good as it gets when it comes to spy stories. It starts out strong – diving straight into the story – and then it just keeps going. I can be a drifter, but it was impossible to drift away while reading this book. It keeps the reader engaged at all times.

The protagonist is Oleg Gordievsky. A real person! Indeed, an actual former KGB spy who defected and joined MI6, becoming one of the most important spies in the cold war. If you like the show “The Americans” then you are almost guaranteed to enjoy this book as well. I particularly appreciated the descriptions of how spies communicate with one another. It can go something like this: If spy X leaves an orange peel under the right side of a bench in the southwest corner of some park, then that means that someone is onto him. But if instead, he leaves a blue chalk mark on a light pole on street Y in SOHO, that means that he wants to meet.

The descriptions of spy communication are both fascinating and humorous. Indeed, as one would expect it can sometimes become confusing such as when one spy was supposed to drop a beer capsule instead dropped a ginger beer capsule. After a lengthy discussion it was decided that the spy probably did not distinguish between ginger beer and real beer.

Nevertheless, there is a lot more to this book. You get insight into the political atmosphere in the 1980s, You will encounter politicians as well as spies. Yet, first and foremost, you get a top-notch cat and mouse spy chase. And the best thing is that the story is, as far as I can tell, entirely factual. The author makes it clear when he is speculating, which I appreciate. If you are at all into these types of books, then you can’t go wrong with this book

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  • robert
  • 09-26-18

Amazing

I finished this book in less than 48 hours and is simply amazing must listen too!

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • 10-03-18

Brilliant Documentary of the Cold War

If you listen to this in your car as I did, you will find yourself driving the long way round and parking up outside your home for extended periods.

I have found all of Ben Macintyre's work absolutely fascinating but this is perhaps his best work. Gripping for anyone that grew up during the Cold war. Thoroughly enjoyed this audio book and looking forward to further works.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • MR TW ASKEW
  • 09-27-18

Simply outstanding

I have been an audible member for many years and this is the best book I have listened to ever

I was transfixed from start to finish with the remarkable story telling and compelling rendition.

If you listen to one audio book, this is the one.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Ovekat
  • 09-27-18

More gripping than any Agatha Christie novel!

Wow! what a story. An incredible true tale of a very brave Russian spy who provided incalculable intel to MI6 in the most gripping audiobook I've listened to. Superbly read by the author Ben MacIntyre, the audio becomes edge of the seat stuff as we relive Oleg Gordievsky's incredibly dangerous liaison with the British secret service and the necessity to smuggle Oleg and his family out of Russia develops into a gripping cannot put down narrative. Without giving anything away there is a twist in the tail as well!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Sutton
  • 12-13-18

Superb

Once you get over the author's CofE vicar style this is a compelling, rivetting and brilliantly told story.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-09-18

Another stonking read/listen by Ben Macintyre.

this was an amazing story, edge of the seat stuff and very British. I loved it and will be re listening soon.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Matt L.
  • 10-04-18

Highly recommended

Having listened to all of Macintyre"s books this is easily the best. I knew nothing about the story at the beginning but couldn't stop listening once I started.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jo
  • 10-02-18

excellent

truly excellent and perfectly read. A must for anyone interested in Intelligence and the security services

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Luis1989
  • 10-01-18

Superb

A work of history that reads like the best spy novel. Especially relevant now that the KGB is back in Britain’s streets

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-28-18

Compelling

Ben MacIntyre is masterly in his handling of this incredible story, both as author and narrator. There is none of the melodrama of spy fiction, just a gripping tale told in an almost matter-of-fact style which makes it even more compelling. Glad I chose the full audiobook rather than the greatly abridged version on Radio 4 which couldn't have done it justice.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kirsty
  • 12-31-18

Another cracking spy yarn, and this one is true!

I dimly remember a news story about this man but I won't relate it - no spoilers in this review! Suffice it to say, this is a tale of conviction, persistence, incredible courage, patience and determination. The author narrates his story brilliantly, and has pieced it together without access to any official documentation, presumably relying on the memories of main characters and bit players alike. Those of us who lived through the 80s owe the subject an enormous debt of gratitude, for keeping his head when all around were losing theirs, intent on dangerous oneupmanship in the nuclear stakes. Thank you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-15-18

Definitive & Outstanding

An outstanding account of Cold War espionage by the master Ben MacIntyre. Gripping from start to finish- a must read/ listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-11-18

Riveting and thrilling!

This was the best true spy story I've ever read! Superbly told and expertly read, this will have you on the edge of your seat!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Luke Murray
  • 12-08-18

Brilliant

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this book, but it was unbelievably good. I couldn’t stop listening! Highly recommend.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-02-18

Fascinating

So far, this is one of the best books I have read this year. Many politcal facts relating to the Cold War are revealed. The Spy's attempted escape from Russia is gripping. Will he make it out alive? This is one book that fits into the category of 'not being able to put it down'. I now need to catch up with some sleep as I listened to the final chapters until the early morning!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Ian
  • 10-17-18

Exceptional

Well written with a lively narration by the author, this is a terrific book. Always captivating, at times nail biting and with laugh out loud moments such as the character descriptions of Richard Bomhead and others, this was an amazing story that kept me enthralled from beginning to end. Thoroughly recommended.

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  • trishreads
  • 12-15-18

Absolutely brilliant

Very well written and read story of a real hero of the Cold War who was instrumental in averting a real hot war with Russia

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-04-18

Incredible Tale

Very in depth story on the life of a Russian spy and why he betrayed his country, his friends and his family.

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  • Richard
  • 11-17-18

Unbelievable, but True

I could not stop listening. What personal cost this man displayed to preserve freedom and democracy in the West. I am sure that modern day socialists and marxists squirm when they reflect on the courage of this man. What are the alternatives to Democracy? Jeremy Corbyn should be made to read this book, and left wing apologists should experience some time in Chinese or Russian re-education camp. They should also reflect on the inhumanity of extremes of left and right ideological thinking.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • mr
  • 10-22-18

A nail biting ride

Well written and narrated and unable to put down. I was intrigued from the beginning to the end.