Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Book Review: A Spy Among Friends

Title: A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal
Author: Ben Macintyre
Format: Paperback
Reading Dates: 08 Apr 2015 - 15 May 2015
Rating: *****

Before I read this book, if you had asked me to play a word association game and given me "Kim Philby," my immediate response would have been "spy." And that would have covered everything I knew about the man. I didn't even know which side he was on or where he was from. (Don't judge.)

That's what made A Spy Among Friends a real-live page-turner for me. I had to keep reading to find out how Kim Philby conned everyone, even his closest friends. Ben Macintyre has created a riveting read that follows Philby from his beginnings as a Soviet agent until his ultimate fate. (Are you like me and don't know the story? I won't spoil the surprise!)

I think what I found most interesting was how the spying seemed less like a James Bond action-adventure kind of job, and more like a Nick Charles witty repartee kind of job. Macintyre's description of Istanbul after WWI, where all the spies from all the sides seemed to know each other and dined and drank in the same restaurants, was especially vivid. Everybody was seemingly watching everyone else and writing home about it in encrypted letters.

This book really held my attention from beginning to end, which, by the way, includes a fascinating postscript from John LeCarre who worked in British intelligence at the same time as Philby. A fascinating book made all the more tantalizing by the fact that it's all true.

Highly recommended!

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