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Russian Roulette: A Deadly Game: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot [Kindle Edition]

Giles Milton
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Product Description


Giles Milton's fast-packed account of Britain's attempts to sabotage Lenin's revolution reads like a madcap thriller... Milton has synthesised and filleted a mass of material - old memoirs, official archives and newly released intelligence files - to produce a rollicking tale... which explains the long war against Russia with verve, wit and colour. It reads like fiction, but it is, astonishingly, history. (The Times)

This gripping history of derring-do and invisible ink brings to life the exploits of the British spies who waged war against Russia during the Cold War ... Full of novelistic flourishes ... [readers] will find themselves as gripped as they would be by the very best of Fleming or le Carré. (The Sunday Times)

A terrific story, told with Milton's customary fluency and eye for detail. (Mail on Sunday)

Milton is a compulsive storyteller whose rattling style ensures this is the antithesis of a dry treatise on espionage. And unlike 007, it's all true. (Daily Express)

This chronicle of British undercover push back against Bolshevik world conspiracy proves to be an exciting ringside seat at the Russian Revolution... accomplished British author Milton does a fine job of keeping order without sparing suspense... A beguiling ride through a riotous time by a historian and able storyteller who knows his facts and his audience. (Kirkus (starred review))

With this marvelous, meticulously researched and truly ground-breaking account of British spies working in Lenin's stripling Soviet Union, Giles Milton - with his best book so far - reminds us of a time when the spying game was dangerous, fun and even, dare one say it cool. (Simon Winchester, author of THE MAN WHO UNITED THE STATES)

Book Description

1917, post-Russian Revolution, an unlikely and eccentric band of British spies are smuggled into newly Soviet Russia to thwart Lenin's plan to destroy British rule in India, as a precursor to toppling the democracies of the West. The spies, under Mansfield Cumming, were the unsung founders of the present-day MI6.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2001 KB
  • Print Length: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (29 Aug. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00C2UUP8I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #109,057 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Visit and my weekly history blog:

'The master of narrative history' - Sunday Times.

Giles Milton is an internationally best-selling author of narrative non-fiction.
His books include Nathaniel's Nutmeg - serialized by the BBC - and seven other critically acclaimed works of history.
His debut thriller, The Perfect Corpse, will be published on 2 September, 2014.
Giles lives in London with his wife, the illustrator Alexandra Milton, and three daughters.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Secret War in a New World 14 Oct. 2013
In 1917 Russia fell to the Bolshevik Party and became the world's first communist state. In response, Britain's nascent intelligence service sent some of the bravest, maddest, and frankly suspect men in her employ to spy on Moscow.

Among them were Paul Dukes, who shed identities like snakes do their skin, Sidney Riley, who lived on a precipice but acted as if it were a plateau, and Arthur Ransome - yes, that Arthur Ransome - who had access to Lenin but also Bolshevik sympathies.

The spies mission was to send information back to Britain that would help her formulate her political and military response to the new Russian government/threat. Given the type of characters involved, though, it is perhaps no wonder that one of them - Riley - became involved in a plot to actually overthrow the Bolshevik government. Amazingly, it very nearly succeeded.

Britain's secret war against Bolshevik Russia was not limited to Petrograd, where the 1917 Revolution started, and Moscow. In north eastern Iran, Wilfred Malleson, conducted a dirty tricks campaign against Russia and Afghanistan that was so successful it caused a breach in relations between the two countries.

Giles Milton does a wonderful job of bringing the exploits of Britain's spies to life in Russian Roulette. Of course, he is helped by the extraordinary deeds of his subjects, and the fact that they remain relevant today - Churchill's decision to launch chemical attacks on the Bolshevik army being a case in point - but there can never be a substitute for a good narrator; Milton is such a man. His narrative is clear, engaging and sympathetic to its subject. No one is perfect but any faults in Milton's penmanship weigh as heavy as feathers.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent ! 18 Sept. 2013
This is a very well written and researched book on one of the most unknown episodes in contemporary history, namely: the involvement of England and its efforts to prevent a Communist takeover in India. It was the idea of Lenin to act there because he thought that a Communist India would further his global revolution.
Giles Milton demonstrates with great skill in what way spies were responsible for subverting Lenin's plot. He does so with the help of newly declassified documents and explains in great detail the deeds of those English spies who risked their lives for England. Indeed, it was also Churchill who made use of chemical weapons against those whom he despised tremendously, the Bolsheviks. The book shows to what extent the early English spies of the twentieth century were productive in gaining and offering raw intelligence material about Russia to their masterspies, in particular to C, the so-called famous Mansfield Cumming. The role of intelligence in history is well known, and Mr. Milton has added another piece in this fascinating puzzle. As he writes, "one spy could produce information worth one year of diplomatic work".
This book is fascinating and is a very good read, covering the years 1909-1925.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good romp through the subject 30 April 2014
The November 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia was a matter of great concern to the British Government. Lenin had stated his intention to take Russia out of the war with Germany; that would leave Germany able to concentrate all its efforts on the Western Front. Lenin was bent on the destruction of the British Empire, specifically stating, 'England is our greatest enemy' and identifying British India as a prime target. And Lenin's declared plans for world revolution were far from mere rhetoric; again, India was a specifically-named target.

So we need not be surprised that British Intelligence Services were active in Russia even before Lenin and Trotsky returned from exile. It is even thought likely that the bullet that killed Rasputin (believed 'guilty' of attempting to use his influence with the Tsarina to take Russia out of the war) came from the revolver of a British agent, Oswald Rayner.

The Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, was formed in 1916 under Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, the original 'C'. Russian Roulette is primarily concerned with the period from that time until Smith-Cumming's death in 1923. The book is largely based on the surprising number of memoirs written by British agents operating in Russia before, during and after the Revolution, and on government documents placed in the National Archives in Kew and in the British Library.

Some British agents were already established as writers; they included Arthur Ransome, and Somerset Maugham. Arthur Ransome was in Russia as a correspondent for the Daily News.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yes and No 16 Nov. 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
No question, the author tells a good story and has built on relatively recent releases to The National Archives at Kew. A review ought to be by a professional historian, which I definitely am not. The running theme is the Comintern (Communist International) intent to stir up unrest in British India in the period 1919 to 1921, but this damp squib is sauced up with well documented British spying activity elsewhere in the brand new Bolshevik 'October' Revolution of 1917. Why 'damp squib'? Because Lenin, as the author relates on p324 et seq., gave priority to his country's economic state: an international trade agreement was signed with Britain in March 1921, and his New Economic Policy (NEP) introducing a limited level of private enterprise, was inaugurated. Before that, in November 1920, the author tells us, 'a huge military entourage slipped unnoticed out of Moscow's Paveletsky station'. Two trains were bound for Tashkent. 'Their task was to raise a Soviet-Islamic Army of God ... The person in overall command ... was not Russian and .. could not speak the language'. ... 'curt order from Moscow to abandon his training camp and disband his army.'
It is up to others to determine if there was a real threat to British India, given that the new USSR was riven by civil war and roaming White Russian armies. The author bolsters his case with so many unjustified adverbs and adjectives that the feeling the reader has is that, despite what read like revelations, his case is not made.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I didn't expect to enjoy reading this book, a choice by my book club. However, I have found it quite a page turner. It is well written and tells a complicated story quite simply. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dancing Queen
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very quick delivery - good addition to my Giles Milton collection!
Published 2 months ago by Sarah Corker
5.0 out of 5 stars Lenin's downfall
An excellent account of how MI5 thwarted the Lenin regime
Published 3 months ago by Michelle Zietzev
4.0 out of 5 stars spies in the cold
Fast paced booklet containing lots of exciting stories, as you would expect from the subject matter (British espionage in early revolutionary Russia) and from Giles Milton. Read more
Published 4 months ago by M. Baerends
3.0 out of 5 stars G A Henty in Russia
I enjoyed this book having read Peter Hopkirk's work, but to be honest I found it a little lightweight. Read more
Published 11 months ago by P. Scrivener
5.0 out of 5 stars spies aplenty
With the onset of Bolshevism, Russia became a very dodgy place for Brits. Plans for World domination,via India, by the proletariat scared the pants off Britain. Read more
Published 12 months ago by A. B. G. Camps
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Well written, such brave men forgotten in the mist of time. Should be a school subject so that people know how evil communism really was, and still is.
Published 12 months ago by Mr. Michael Shaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant stories about our WWI spies!
Much that I didn't know here. Well written, with a nice pace, and easy to read. A bit like a modern-day Boys' Own tale overall; and most enjoyable to read. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Mr. K. L. Longmore
3.0 out of 5 stars British spies and the Polish Army thwarted Lenin's global plot
Lenin/Trotsky had 3 choices after the revolution; invade west, invade south (India), do nothing. Lenin chose to invade west and was annihilated by the Poles in Aug/Sept 1920. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Tadek
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful, if biased, account of Britain's war against Russia in 1917-20
This fascinating book tells the story of how the British state did all it could to destroy the Russian people. Read more
Published 13 months ago by William Podmore
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