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The Spy and the Traitor

The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


*Shortlisted for the 2018 Ballie Gifford Prize*


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 for MI6. 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 espionage. In The Spy and the Traitor Ben Macintyre reveals a tale of betrayal, duplicity and raw courage that changed the course of the Cold War forever.

'Macintyre does true-life espionage better than anyone else. The Spy and the Traitor may well be his best book yet' Evening Standard

'A dazzling non-fiction thriller and an intimate portrait of high-stakes espionage' Guardian

'A real-life thriller, as tense as John le Carré's novels, or even Ian Fleming's' Economist

From Publishers Weekly

06 August 2018 – Macintyre (Rogue Heroes) recounts the exploits of Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB agent turned British spy responsible for "the single largest operational download' in MI6 history," in this captivating espionage tale. Building on in-depth interviews and other supplementary research, Macintyre shows Gordievsky expertly navigating the "wilderness of mirrors" that made up the daily existence of a Cold War spy passing microfilm, worrying that his wife will turn him in to the KGB, battling an unexpected dosage of truth serum. In Macintyre's telling, Aldrich Ames, the CIA agent turned KGB operative who gave up Gordievsky's cover, functions as a foil and a vehicle for moral comparison between the KGB and MI6. In a feat of real authorial dexterity, Macintyre accurately portrays the long-game banality of spycraft the lead time and persistence in planning with such clarity and propulsive verve that the book often feels like a thriller. The book has a startling relevancy to the news of the day, from examples of fake news to the 1984 British elections in which "Moscow was prepared to use dirty tricks and hidden interference to swing a democratic election in favor of its chosen candidate." Macintyre has produced a timely and insightful page-turner.

Customer Reviews

Le Carré but real life

A superbly researched and paced account of the most successful spy operation of the late stages of the Cold War.

The protagonist and antagonists are vividly drawn and the detail with which events are described (owing, no doubt to the trained memory of Gordievsky) throws the reader into the centre of the operation.

If this were a fictional novel, my review would be the same, which makes it all the more impressive and thrilling that it is a historical account. The triumph is equally counterbalanced with sadness and tragedy, reflecting the contradictions of the spy world as a whole that are often referenced in the ‘informed fiction’ of Le Carré, Cumming etc.

The Spy and the Traitor
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  • £12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Military
  • Published: 20 September 2018
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Print Length: 416 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings