The Spy and The Traitor Review

The Spy and The Traitor by Ben Macintyre takes place a year after Alexander Litvinenko, a former agent for Russia was poisoned to death in 2006. Once again the world was captivated by another former agent, one that happened to be a double agent, fighting for his life. Only this time, the act did not happen on Russian soil but took place on United Kingdom soil.

Oleg Gordievsky was living in Surrey, England and leading a quiet life. He had assumed a new name, but it was not enough to hide him from the Russians. He too was poisoned and was acutely aware that he had been marked for assassination as a result of work he did decades earlier.

As a young man, Gordievsky led the life of a double agent working in London as the KGB bureau chief. While performing his role for the KGB, Gordievsky was revealing Russian secrets to the British Government. The information he passed along was so sensitive that even top government elected officials did not know his true identity.

Gordievsky’s life Retold

The publication of Macintyre’s The Spy and The Traitor takes a detailed look into Gordievsky’s and retells his escape from the Soviet Union in the 80’s, and it is only now that we understand the true meaning of the Gordievsky file.

The cases of recent poisonings have reminded people that while the cold war is officially over, it continues to battle on. The beginning of the cold war began over 70 years ago after Igor Gouzenko defected to Canada and shared Soviet secrets shortly after the end of WWII. Gouzenko defection revealed the Soviet had built a network of agents throughout the Western world. In the 60’s another double agent defected to Russia and information shared resulted in the destruction of England’s own spy network and the death of other spies. It also resulted in England out for revenge, and that is where Oleg Gordievsky entered the picture.

His life amplifies the distrust that is common among other countries, even those that share common ground and interests. The British kept secrets from the Americans, the Americans kept secrets from the British, and that led to America taking counterintelligence measure in an effort to figure things out.

Aldrich Ames, the head of counterintelligence for America, was an acting Russian double agent, and that led to the identification of Oleg Gordievsky and his eventual demise. The book provides content about his early professional career while in Denmark, and the decision to forego the Russians in favour of the British.

Macintyre provides old-fashion journalism to track down all those involved in the case, spoke with each and recounts statements that made with respect to events as they happened. For spy lovers, this is a must read that is not only exciting but enlightening as well.