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Publisher's Summary

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. 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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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • 2019-01-16

a tour de force

this is a great book by any standards but even more so perfect as an audiobook. the tension is real especially if you were like me and were not familiar with this case beforehand. I found this book had the perfect amount of focusing on the personal details and motivations and the larger scale political consequences. great narration as well. a book I would recommend any listener

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Finally the remarkable truth is revealed, sort of...

This is a detailed factual and thoroughly enjoyable account of the key spy and counter spy who accepted most of the lives of those living in the free world as well as those in Russia. You can decide the moral dilemma yourself.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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More about the Spy then the traitor

This story is more about the Russian spy for MI6. Aldrich Ames feels like an afterthought. Still a decent listen

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  • Mrs. Penelope Goward
  • 2018-12-24

Exciting!

Informative, exciting story. Well told & narrated. We listened during a long & boring drive. We could hardly wait to get in the car after each stop.

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 2018-12-07

Brilliant Audio Book

This book is brilliant well worth reading ,it gave a great insight on the workings of the KGB and how fragile relations were between east and west

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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