Monday, September 22, 2014

A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre is a fascinating read about the duplicity of the most successful double agent of WWII and the Cold War. This non-fiction account written in narrative style takes the reader on a journey through Philby's life as a career MI6 agent who sent every secret that came his way to Russian intelligence.

Philby lived an incredible life full of colorful characters. Macintrye chooses to frame his telling of this life with a friendship - that of Kim Philby and fellow MI6 agent Nicholas Elliott. Throughout their entire career, Elliott was Philby's most faithful supporter and friend, even during the later years that were full of suspicion and accusations. A Spy Among Friends, a title with a clever hidden meaning, traces Philby's development from a communist sympathizer in college to a full blown double agent whose deception led to hundreds of deaths and unsuccessful missions to thwart communism. For the first twenty or so years of his career, not one person suspected his deception as he moved up the ranks of MI6.

I have never heard of Ben Macintyre before, but after reading this, I am a huge fan. This wasn't just a good book; it was a great read. It was factual and informative, but read like a best-selling novel. Macintyre's choice to frame the story of Philby's life in his friendship with Nicholas Elliott makes the reader feel the impact of Philby's betrayal on a more visceral level. Though I knew the outcome from the start, I found myself amazed at the culture of MI6 that allowed Philby access to so many more secrets than he would have had from just his own work. This same culture averted suspicion from Philby and allowed him to escape several close calls.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in WWII or Cold War history, as well as anyone interested in spycraft or its history. I plan on finding Ben Macintyre's other books and throroughly enjoying them while also learning as much as I did while reading A Spy Among Friends.

Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255