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.

The Woman in the Window by A.J Finn

After seeing rave reviews of the novel is like the iconic “Gone Girl” which combines the highlights of old ligature and new. I had to give this novel a fair shot, and I’m still a bit undecided if I enjoyed it.

First, the book synopsis;

A woman named Anna Fox lives alone in New York City classic brownstone. Though, before this, she had a happy husband and daughter who after a having to deal with her acute agoraphobia, an anxiety-related disorder, caused a rift between the family and ultimately – the husband and daughter left. Nowadays, Anna spends her days chatting with strangers on the internet, drinking and watching movies, as well as almost creepily keep too many tabs on her neighbours. However, after a new family moves in and Anna misses her own, she suddenly realises that the Russell’s may be more malicious than one originally thought.

Just from that, this book sounded to be interesting, obviously inspired by Gone Girl, tale of personal issues combined with mysterious neighbours. In all honesty, this novel starts off like a Gone Girl knock off with the classic protagonist who is locked at home, doesn’t have a considerably normal social life, and enjoys sticking her nose into her neighbour’s personal lives. Along with that, the set up is on the lackluster side as it goes through a rundown of who the Russell’s are, Anna’s past life with her own family, her issues, her childhood therapy sessions, and constant emphasis’s being put on the ominous and shady tenant who is residing in the basement.

Predictability Turned into Twists and Turns

While the novel did start off as being predictable, it does start taking a turn and entering the realm of mystery as one of the movies that Anna is watching are events that are happening in her real world – if that makes sense. While it reads better than trying to explain, that twists are well done. At times, however, it is overshadowed by Anna’s own dialogue of constant self-gaslighting.

After getting over this, the novel continues own and begins to spiral down the path of mistrust to the int where Anna is constantly doubting her memories and previous actions after the realisation that she is truly alone. Plus, once Anna finally decides to go to the police, her seemly never-ending pile of wine and perception drugs fairs to be one of the biggest reason why they aren’t truly believing her story, even though the danger of the entire situation is steadily rising.

Despite the personal touches of Anna’s personality, this novel truly does read as another knockoff to a combination of Gone Girl as well as The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins. Though if you can get that mindset out of your head and read it as its own piece of work, then you can truly enjoy unearthing the layers of mystery of Anna and her dangerous neighbours.

On the upside, this novel isn’t just filled with constant talk of the neighbours. At points, you can see Anna’s motivation to grow and finally get outside of her apartment again. At one point, she even makes the effort to leave – which leads to a conversation with a neighbour and a night filled with drinking wine and playing chess with them. Overall, I’m going to have to give this novel 4.5. Seeing the mystery unfold as well as personal growth from Anna makes it a fun read – but the clear inspiration from other books is a bit too noticeable.