Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Spy Among Friends Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre

Master storyteller Ben Macintyre’s most ambitious work to date brings to life the twentieth 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.

My thoughts: I agreed to review A Spy Among Friends delighted to have the opportunity to learn more about the men behind the history of this period in the World's story. Having been a young child during World War II and an adult during the Vietnamese War (conflict?), and remembering intensely the period of the Cold War when everything was suspect, Philby's story and events in his story really piqued my interest.

Sadly though, this book did not meet my expectations. I tried, really tried, on several occasions to get into the book. I skipped through various chapters to see if I could get a footing in what the author was doing. I could not, so I finally gave up. I found it without rhyme or reason and no sense of order or direction. Whose fault was this? Mine? The authors? I don't know, but I simply couldn't read this book that I so desired.

I gained enough perspective into what was the life of Philby to understand that he was a smooth operator and first class heel. He used people. He used society. He won the friendship and trust of people when he certainly did not deserve either. He betrayed virtually everyone and especially his own country. The amount of damage he caused will probably never be truly known because the files and annuals of spy-crafters Worldwide must by their very nature remain secret and hidden. That which has been revealed has shown the World that Philby was a betrayer first and foremost.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy through the Blogging For Books reviewing program in exchange for my review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. I was not compensated for this review.

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