A Spy Among Friends

A Spy Among Friends : Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

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Kim Philby was the most notorious British defector and Soviet mole in history. Agent, double agent, traitor and enigma, he betrayed every secret of Allied operations to the Russians in the early years of the Cold War. Philby's two closest friends in the intelligence world, Nicholas Elliott of MI6 and James Jesus Angleton, the CIA intelligence chief, thought they knew Philby better than anyone, and then discovered they had not known him at all. This is a story of intimate duplicity; of loyalty, trust and treachery, class and conscience; of an ideological battle waged by men with cut-glass accents and well-made suits in the comfortable clubs and restaurants of London and Washington; of male friendships forged, and then systematically betrayed. With access to newly released MI5 files and previously unseen family papers, and with the cooperation of former officers of MI6 and the CIA, this definitive biography unlocks what is perhaps the last great secret of the Cold War.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 368 pages
  • 153 x 234 x 33mm | 760g
  • Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 2 x 16pp B&W plate sections
  • 1408851725
  • 9781408851722
  • 71,817

Review quote

An engaging book on a tantalising and ultimately tragic subject, If it starts as a study of friendship, it ends as an indictment Philip Hensher, Spectator No one writes about deceit and subterfuge so dramatically, authoritatively or perceptively. To read A Spy Among Friends is a bit like climbing aboard a runaway train in terms of speed and excitement - except that Macintyre knows exactly where he is going and is in total control of his material Daily Mail, Books of the Week It reads like fiction, which is testament to the extraordinary power of the story itself but also to the skills of the storyteller ... at least as compelling as any of the great fictionalised accounts of Britain's greatest traitor and one of the best real-life spy stories one is ever likely to read ***** Daily Express Illuminating, gripping and moving ... What Macintyre reveals - but not too quickly - is the extent to which those who confided in him, as friends or colleagues or both, were made unwitting accessories to treason Evening Standard Thrilling ... An extraordinary book ... I'm not a lover of spy novels, yet I adored this book. Fictional spies never seem believable to me; novels are populated by stereotypes devoid of nuances that define the individual. That's not the case here. Macintyre's strength is his capacity for intimacy, the very thing Philby, Elliott and Angleton lacked ... Just about perfect The Times Book of the Week Whereas Milne thinks his friend betrayed his country because he genuinely believed in communism, Macintyre's explanation is more intriguing and more convincing Sunday Times Riveting reading ... The transcript of this rendezvous is Ben Macintyre's scoop: the motor of an unputdownable postwar thriller whose every incredible detail is fact not fiction ... A brilliant reconciliation of history and entertainment ... A Spy Among Friends is not just an elegy, it is an unforgettable requiem Observer Gripping ... Ben Macintyre's bottomlessly fascinating new book is an exploration of Kim Philby's friendships, particularly with Nicholas Elliott ... This book consists of 300 pages; I would have been happy had it been three times as long ***** Mail on Sunday The life of Cambridge spy Kim Philby is analysed in this irresistibly readable study Sunday Times Swiftly paced, beautifully written ... It is the small, human details that makes this grim, beguiling story so intoxicating Scotland on Sunday A hugely engrossing contribution to Philby lore ... Such a summary does no justice to Macintyre's marvellously shrewd and detailed account of Philby's nefarious career. It is both authoritative and enthralling ... One of the pleasures of writing about espionage is that you are almost licensed to concoct your own conspiracy theories; all that's demanded is plausibility, and Elliott and Macintyre's gloss on events is highly plausible William Boyd, New Statesman He does not let his readers down here ... The story has been told before, but Macintyre's ability to unbundle intelligence acronyms is unrivalled ... He has thrown a detailed and always entertaining light on the practices and culture of the 20th-century British intelligence through the lens of its most ignominious episode Sunday Telegraph Engaging and atmospheric Country Life Macintyre writes with the diligence and insight of a journalist, and the panache of a born storyteller ... Worthy of John le Carre at his best John Banville, Guardian Fascinating ... The real tragedy, as this book so masterfully reveals, is that Philby's charm and easy manner made fools of so many ***** Sunday Express The doomed relationship between Philby and Elliott makes this old tale of treason seem new enough Economist Riveting and tragic. I read Macintyre's book in one sitting, and found it impossible to put down Lord Faulkner of Worcester, House Magazine A book I could give to anybody Observer The consistently readable Ben Macintyre shines a penetrating light on the friendship between Kim Philby, one of the most notorious traitors in British history, and fellow MI6 spy Nicholas Elliott Sunday Express Summer Reading No one writes so well on subterfuge and deceit as Macintyre Mail on Sunday Summer Reads A rollicking book. Mr Macintyre is full of pep and never falters in the head-long rush of his narrative Richard Davenport-Hines, Wall Street Journal Europe An extraordinary book ... The focus on friendship brings an intimacy here that is missing from the cardboard stereotypes that populate conventional espionage histories and spy novels The Times There is nobody to beat Ben Macintyre for a knowledge of espionage ... A Spy Among Friends is, like all of Macintyre's work, a real gem Alexander McCall Smith, Sainsbury's Magazine The vicarious experience of the seedy, hard-drinking glamour of old-school espionage is thrilling Zoe Strachan, Sunday Herald Books of the Year An unputdownable thriller, and the impeccably researched truth Nicholas Hytner, Observer Books of the Year Terrific ... Macintyre's gift is to write well-researched non-fiction as though it was popular fiction, and here he excels himself with an almost unbelievable tale of establishment complacency and incompetence Ian Hislop, Mail on Sunday Books of the Year One of the peculiar pleasures involved in reading a biography of Kim Philby is that of spying on the spy ... A Spy Among Friends manages to convey Philby's satanic charm Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday Books of the Year This account of the high-level British spymaster who turned out to be a Russian mole reads like John le Carre but is a solidly researched true story New York Times 100 Notable Books Of 2014 Macintyre is a gifted storyteller Charlotte Heathcote, Sunday Express Books of the Year Hard to put down ... A great book that lives up to the reputation it has acquired Robert Lambourne, Times Higher Education Supplement Conscious that Philby's story has been told many times before, Macintyre tries to find a new angle by interweaving it with that of Nicholas Elliott, probably Philby's closest friend in MI6. This has the merit of creating a rare sense of momentum, as we build towards their final confrontation in Beirut Sunday Timesshow more

About Ben Macintyre

Ben Macintyre is a columnist and Associate Editor on The Times. He has worked as the newspaper's correspondent in New York, Paris and Washington. He is the author of nine previous books including Agent Zigzag, shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award and the Galaxy British Book Award for Biography of the Year 2008, and the no. 1 bestsellers Operation Mincemeat and Double Cross. He lives in North London with his wife and three children.show more

Rating details

8,188 ratings
4.11 out of 5 stars
5 36% (2,945)
4 44% (3,640)
3 16% (1,278)
2 3% (215)
1 1% (110)

Our customer reviews

Hundreds of books have been written about the Kim Philby affair and I havenâ??t read a single one of them. Ben Macintyreâ??s book is the first one I picked up on this issue. The story is fairly simple but I wonâ??t repeat it here, it is all in the book anyway. What struck me is how well one advances in these circles with the â??one of usâ?? pedigree and upbringing. I also seem to recall that it was quite fashionable in the 1930s to flirt with communism. In that respect Philby isnâ??t terribly unusual. Since he was one of us (well one of them would be the proper expression here) he probably could have lived openly as a communist and still have advanced quite far. As I read the book it was fairly obvious to me that Philby was encouraged to make â??run for itâ?? in Beirut. From an SIS point of view this must have appeared as a far better solution than bringing 30-years of dirty laundry into the open. The only other solution I could see would have been to have him met with an unfortunate accident. The afterword by John Le Carre I found quite good. Towards the end, he mentions that during a trip to Moscow in 1987 he was invited to meet Philby and (presumably) help him write his memoirs. Those memoirs were written by Genrikh Borovik and published as The Philby Files, claiming that it reveals all KGB archives on the subject. In the next volume, the KGB (or its successor) will no doubt allow their files to be read onsite. All told, I liked Ben Macintyre;s book.show more
by thomas koetzsch
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