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A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal [Kindle Edition]

Ben Macintyre
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (284 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.


Product Description

Review

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 Carré 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 Carré 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)

Book Description

The true, untold story of Kim Philby, history's most famous traitor, from Sunday Times no. 1 bestselling author Ben Macintyre, featuring an Afterword from John le Carré

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2234 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1 edition (3 Mar. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00ID7N356
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (284 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,887 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

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 seven previous books including Agent Zigzag, the story of wartime double-agent Eddie Chapman, which was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award and the Galaxy British Book Award for Biography of the Year 2008. Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War II, published in January 2010, is the thrilling true story of the greatest and most successful wartime deception ever attempted. He lives in London with his wife and three children.

(Photo credit: Jerry Bauer)


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Et tu, Philby? 6 Aug. 2014
By FictionFan TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
The post-war Cambridge spy ring holds an endless and rather strange fascination - a group of men who betrayed their country and its allies to the Soviet regime for the most nebulous of reasons and whose actions are considered to have cost many lives. And yet somehow they are held up as anti-heroes, a bit like the Great Train Robbers or Bonnie and Clyde. It's a strange phenomenon and one that always leaves me feeling a bit conflicted. So it was with a mix of anticipation and apprehension that I started to read this one about the infamous 'Third Man', Kim Philby (the inspiration behind Graham Greene's screenplay for the film of that name).

Ben Macintyre is a journalist by trade and has written several books about real-life spies. In this one he has approached his subject by looking at the friendships that to a large extent shielded Philby from discovery for years, even after suspicions had become aroused. Philby had already become a Soviet agent before he joined MI6. Like all the spies, he would claim this was because he was convinced by the arguments of communism - but, again like them all, that didn't stop him living as lavish and hedonistic a lifestyle as he possibly could. Rather than making him stand out, his heavy drinking and constant partying meant that he fitted in perfectly to the overgrown-boys' club that was MI6 at that time. And this is really the point that Macintyre is making in this book - that MI6 in particular was filled by the upper-classes, selected not so much for their characters as their families and old school ties, and living in a kind of closed community where they didn't talk to outsiders but revealed secrets casually to each other on the grounds that of course they could all trust each other.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A charming vile man 9 Sept. 2014
Format:Hardcover
I have read all of Ben Macintyre's books, and they just get better and better. However, in this one he has set not only an exceptional standard for narrative, but, in a way that was absent in the others, he has, I think, let his own standpoint show, which lends a special edge to the book.

I recently heard an interview with the biographer of a Pre-Norman, Anglo-Saxon monarch, and she said that because of the constant proximity to this character, she became something of an advocate of his reputation against others whose relative position was held in higher regard. She thus admitted to a somewhat personal relationship with the subject of her book.

Well Macintyre, I believe does the same. His chapters a a splendid mix of amusing story, surprising history, personal courage (by both British backed and KGB agents) and political interpretation , but, time after time, the objective and cheerful mask slips and reveals that Macintyre absolutely despises and loathes Philby. A sentiment that it is impossible not to share.

The amusing stories of Abwehr and SIS rivalry in Istanbul are retold as clever revelations, and even the post-Venlo rolling up of the British networks in Holland is presented objectively, as a "fortunes of war" disaster, but Philby's betrayal of the Catholic "resistance" in Germany to the KGB is retold, several times, with ill-disguised disgust.

Philby comes across as the lowest possible form of life, an intellectually inadequate Communist who would not defend his beliefs (perhaps because he realised how pathetic and inadequate they were, but hid from this in alcohol), who betrayed trust, friends and those whose lives depended on him for a third rate dictatorship and an intellectually moribund religion.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spy Among Friends 16 Mar. 2014
By S Riaz HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Ben Macintyre is a great writer and, in this latest book, he has turned his attention to Kim Philby – one of the Cambridge Spies. Historically, this book may not offer much that is new, but it does tell the story from a different viewpoint ; that of his friendships, most notably with Nicholas Elliott. In other words, this is not really a straight-forward biography of Philby, but focuses on his personality and on the Old Boy network that enabled him to evade detection for so long. The book begins with the meeting between Philby and Elliott in Beirut in January, 1963, with Elliott confronting his former friend about his betrayal of his country and trying to obtain a confession. He must certainly have felt betrayed personally too, as he had done much to protect Philby from earlier suspicions by MI5 – defending and helping him when he was in difficulty.

This fascinating account looks at the early life of both men, their meeting during WWII and their career in the Secret Intelligence Service. Kim Philby was, from the beginning, a Soviet agent. Along with the Cambridge Spies; Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross, he was so successful that his Soviet spymasters suspected him of being a double agent. As well as being a close friend of Elliott, he also became the mentor of James Jesus Angleton, an American and one of the most powerful spies in history. The Old Boy network which had brought both Elliott and Philby into the intelligence service meant that while agents were secretive outside of their immediate circle, they were horribly indiscreet within it, trusting on bonds of class and social networking to protect them.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Drunken friends playing at spying
A beautifully written book. It gives the sense of friendship that Philby inspired in others and the drunken haze that was the intelligence service in the post year wars.
Published 1 day ago by Bob Wagstaff
4.0 out of 5 stars I have read most of Ben Macintyre. This one ...
I have read most of Ben Macintyre. This one is about someone we already know a lot about. For that reason it is a bit run of the mill.
Published 2 days ago by Tony Burley
5.0 out of 5 stars An affable cold blooded killer who got away.
From the outset this book seizes the reader's attention and it doesn't let go until the very end. I thought at first that as the story of Philby's ultimate defection is so well... Read more
Published 4 days ago by K. S. Hutchence
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to put down. Great book
Great book. Literally couldn't put it down. Wonderfully written and pitched perfectly. Very intriguing and it's all true, or as close to the truth as we're going to get.
Published 6 days ago by shane o'hare
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love this book.
Published 11 days ago by Stephen J. Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A wonderful book, very interesting and well-written. I like factual books and Ben MacIntyre's are always very readable.
Published 11 days ago by V. J. Elliott
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Satisfied
Published 20 days ago by Ann Bull
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever and well written
An amazing story of the type 'that you couldn't make it up'. If like me you were young at the time all this happened it is enlightening.
Published 21 days ago by Baked Jam Roll
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Yes I'm very pleased with the book, well researched and racy like a good detective story, Thankyou
Published 25 days ago by cy
5.0 out of 5 stars The past is a foreign country
Ben MacIntyre has come up trumps again with this compelling and insightful history of one of the Cold War's most interesting characters. Read more
Published 26 days ago by Alistair J Smith
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