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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

The number one Sunday Times best seller

Shortlisted for the 2018 Baillie Gifford Prize

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

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

What the critics say

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

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What listeners say about The Spy and the Traitor

Average Customer Ratings
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excellent

this great story kept me wanting more from beginning to end. I loved every minute.

5 people found this helpful

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wonderfully told, captivating & true story

I couldn't listen to this one fast enough. such an immersive and interesting story on the spy world.

2 people found this helpful

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Fantastic

Better than any spy fiction, a suspenseful tale til the end. I even had knots at some points. Started to listen to it on a long road trip and almost couldn’t wait to get back in the car to hear the rest of it!

2 people found this helpful

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Get this book

This story was excellent. It built and built until I literally couldn’t stop listening. The narrator was outstanding too. If you like spy stories this is one you can’t miss. I’ve already bought another from the same author and I’m enjoying it too.

2 people found this helpful

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Loved it.

Spy stories are my favourite novels, the fact that this one is based on real events made it even more enjoyable. One of the best books I have ever listened to. Very well researched and written, with the added bonus of great narrating by the author. Highly recommended!!

2 people found this helpful

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Absolutely amazing book

Absolutely loved the book. Hard to not feel sorry for Oleg but he did what he thought he had to do. The world is a safer place because of him.

2 people found this helpful

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Fastest 14 hours ever!

I loved this book! Such an education but told in such a fast paced way that it literally kept me up at night resetting my sleep timer - just another 30 minutes - over and over!

Absolutely astonishing to learn how spy vs spy really worked!

Excellent narration by the author.

1 person found this helpful

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excellent

loved it. great from start to finish. keeps you on edge of your seat with twists and turns and great detail. best of all true.

1 person found this helpful

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amazing history

awesome read, very addicting. Ben McIntyre never disappoints! I will be buying another book as soon as possible.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Thrilling!

This is a book about a true unsung hero of the cold war. the author tells it as it was, and often had me holding my breath in fear for this super spy. no fiction could compete with this kind of intensity and intrigue.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Bruce
  • 2019-03-28

Great listen.

The audible equivalent of a book you can’t put down.
Gripping story. Well researched. The first book for a long time that I couldn’t wait to continue. Narrator does a great job with the Russian pronunciation as well. Simply enjoyable whilst informative.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Neuron
  • 2018-10-18

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

6 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-06-27

Exciting and brilliant.

Excellent well written, capturing a story so important to recent modern history. How brave all the characters are, irrespective of where they stand politically. The fear and limited choices were well described and real. How fortunate to be born and raised in the west.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Sara Jardine
  • 2019-06-21

Cracking story

Fascinating and fantastical spy story made all the more gripping for being true! Made being stuck in motorway traffic a pleasure!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Lizpixie
  • 2022-07-17

Russian James Bond

I really enjoyed this account of a part of the Cold War I’d never heard before. It was well written, very captivating & very well narrated.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2022-05-16

Brave man, who gave a lot, but lost out on family

Shows the influence , one man can have on East/West relations.
A more recent, well placed individual, could have had a positive effect on the current Ukrainian situation.

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  • Ash
  • 2021-09-03

Classic

I have listened to this in it’s entirety three times. A brilliant Cold War espionage tale, brilliantly researched and never stops you being enthralled. If it was fiction, you simply wouldn’t believe it. As for the narration, the author Ben Macintyre knocks this one out of the park. I could listen to him reading the phone book ! Highly recommend !!!!

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  • Sergiu P.
  • 2021-07-27

Probably the most interesting book I ever read

Superbly narrated, exciting story full of details about the KGB and MI6, must read! A+

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  • Mikko Hiltunen
  • 2021-06-01

Great book!

The thread of the story is easy to follow and the book is well structured. It doesn't get bogged down in useless minutiae, the level of detail is just right.

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  • tinyclanger
  • 2021-05-14

Magnificent, thrilling read

Completely compelling, all the more so for being an account of real events. I don't always enjoy an author reading their own work, but this is perfect. Bravo.

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  • Moxo
  • 2021-10-14

loved it!

Ben MacIntyre tells stories like no other. The writing is wonderful and the voice rich in tones