This one was incredible. A fascinating tale about espionage during the Cold War, made all the more impressive by the fact that it's a true story.
The book charts the rise, the influence and the defection of Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB agent who covertly worked for MI6 for over a decade, and reads as if every spy movie ever made was based around his extraordinary life. There's Gordievsky, assisted by the British in becoming head of the KGB in London, interrogations with truth serums (apparently that's a real thing), the threat of nuclear war, Russian spies who could have potentially become Prime Minister of England, dead drops, secret codes, and onward from there.
It's not only the story of Gordievsky, but an insight into the all-consuming paranoia of the Cold War era, both among individuals and entire intelligence agencies. It helps demystify what drives some to betray their countries or become disaffected with deeply ingrained ideologies. It was fascinating to learn just how disillusioned so many Russians were when Soviet tanks crushed Czech opposition during the Prague Spring of 1968. Gordievsky himself is easy to root for, as you witness him question the violent and oppressive excesses of Marxism and decide, for matters of principle, to seek to undermine its influence.
A brilliant page-turner, it's hard to believe it's a genuine story of one man's career as a covert agent. And if you don't feel like taking my word for it, it's perhaps best described by the inimitable John le Carré: "The best true spy story I have ever read."
5.0 / 5.0