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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible and Enjoyable
I enjoyed this book much more than the previous reviewer.

It may not be an academic tome and may contain little that's new to a specialist audience but I suspect that's not the target market anyway. For a general reader like me it was accessible, well-researched and fluidly written.

I always value Gordon Corera's analysis of security issues on BBC...
Published on 12 Aug 2011 by stubie 96

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Be aware. Title change. Had already bought this book.
I'm not really complaining, just warning any other people who buy a lot of books. I didn't realise this book was one I'd already bought in hardback. It was called: The Art of Betrayal: Life and Death in the British Secret Service. Now it's called MI6: etc.....I read a review of it in FT Weekend and bought it on Kindle. Once I started reading it, it seemed familiar,...
Published on 23 Oct 2012 by D. G. Short


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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible and Enjoyable, 12 Aug 2011
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I enjoyed this book much more than the previous reviewer.

It may not be an academic tome and may contain little that's new to a specialist audience but I suspect that's not the target market anyway. For a general reader like me it was accessible, well-researched and fluidly written.

I always value Gordon Corera's analysis of security issues on BBC News and have enjoyed his Radio 4 documentaries. This book was equally rewarding.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars MI6 from the Cold War to Afghanistan and Iraq, 16 Jan 2013
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Written by a BBC journalist, this is a readable and gripping book about MI6 and the development of Britain's secret service. Though MI6 was born in 1909, this history effectively starts with the post-WW2 Cold War period, and the early chapters set in Vienna read like the novels of Graham Greene and John le Carré, both of whom worked for MI6.

The fall of Soviet Russia in 1991 changed the game, however, and the latter part of the book discusses MI6's search for a new role and identity in a post-Cold War world.

The book is especially good on tracking the involvement of MI6 in Afghanistan where, with the CIA, they helped arm, train and fund mujahideen against the communist government and later Soviet invasion in the 1980s, and there's a nice irony in quoting Thatcher's government on how Islamic groups "`were good terrorists so we supported them. The ANC were bad. That caused her [Thatcher] no problem at all,'".

The final chapter looks at the role of MI6 in the `weapons of mass destruction' debacle which led to the invasion of Iraq, and the impact that has had on the management, role and status of MI6.

Throughout Corera keeps this readable and involving, and maintains a fairly judicious and objective viewpoint. So this is very good political reportage which weaves the personal stories of spies, agents, handlers and bureaucrats together. In some ways, the story of MI6 is also the story of world politics, from the Cold War between global superpowers to international terrorism - and Corera tells it in an accessible and fluent way.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 12 Aug 2011
By 
Stephen Mitchell "Mitch" (Kew Gardens, London , UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Fascinating - a really good look at MI6, full of info and surprises. Paints MI6 as a strange mix of the heroic and macho world of Ian Fleming's James Bond, and the secretive and dangerous world of le Carré. It's thought provoking and relates to events still very fresh - and possibly raw - in Britons' minds, such as Blair's decision to invade Iraq; however it also brings back memories of the Cold War and really emphasises how little we knew about what was actually going on (that hasn't changed, it seems). Really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it - a superb read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Be aware. Title change. Had already bought this book., 23 Oct 2012
By 
D. G. Short (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service (Kindle Edition)
I'm not really complaining, just warning any other people who buy a lot of books. I didn't realise this book was one I'd already bought in hardback. It was called: The Art of Betrayal: Life and Death in the British Secret Service. Now it's called MI6: etc.....I read a review of it in FT Weekend and bought it on Kindle. Once I started reading it, it seemed familiar, and sure enough, there it was on my bookshelves.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping espionage history, 25 Aug 2011
This is a fascinating book written with great verve and aplomb. The history of the Secret Intelligence Service - MI6 as it is familiarly known today - has been charted by many, but few have possessed Corera's narrative style. Particularly enthralling are the sections about the 1950s and early 1960s, when Soviet moles seemed to be emerging with regularity and the KGB appeared all too often to be winning the intelligence war. But the story of perhaps MI6's greatest success from that era - that of the defector Oleg Penkovsky - is the most compelling of all, with Corera recreating with real authenticity the tense, taut discussion (interrogation) between MI6 (and the CIA) and Penkovsky in Room 360 of London's Mount Royal Hotel.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Accessibly written summary but with some flaws, 7 Sep 2011
This review is from: MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service (Kindle Edition)
The positives about this book are that it's very readable, has some entertaining anecdotes and, for anyone who is completely new to the subject, it provides a breezy overview of the British intelligence services from the end of the Second World War to the present day. The author's journalistic background means that he writes well, has interviewed some of the leading participants and references some of the key books (but very little of the Internet material).

There's decent coverage of the Cold War focusing on the well known figures of Philby and the Cambridge 5, as well as Penkovsky and Gordievsky with some interesting geographical case studies on the intelligence proxy wars in Vienna, the Congo and Afghanistan. The final chapters on the political pressure on the intelligence agencies in the run up to to the Iraq War are a very good summary based on the various reports and accounts of this. The book also weaves in a number of interesting references to writers of spy fiction who were involved in intelligence (Greene, Le Carre and Fleming).

The negatives are that it's much weaker on the 1990s which are pretty much ignored, there's little discussion of the Tomlinson and Shayler controversies for example, and there is practically no material on Northern Ireland which is a major omission given the levels of intelligence activities directed against republican and loyalist terrorism. The post Iraq material is pretty scant and there is no coverage of the Wikileaks revelations and the implications of the Internet for security organisations.

If you're a general reader looking for an exciting history of Britain's spooks, then this is well worth a read. For those wanting more academic or in-depth accounts, I suggest you look elsewhere.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We'd have been better off doing nothing", 22 Jan 2014
By 
David Wineberg "David Wineberg" (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Alan Bates starred in two mildly comic tv films. An Englishman Abroad, by Alan Bennett, told the story of a tawdry, disheveled spy who defected to the USSR. He was irrelevant, ignored and reduced to scrounging bars of soap at receptions. In Tom Stoppard's The Dog It Was That Died, a double-double-double agent tries to commit suicide because he couldn't figure out who he was really working for - or why. Both amusing, but I had no idea how close they were to the truth. Far from the glam world of 007, intelligence is a morass of malign incompetence and paranoia.

The Art of Betrayal is an astonishing depiction of the day to day failings of the intelligence community. They stumble, they fumble, they make it up as they go along, but mostly, they accomplish essentially nothing. Along the way, they betray colleagues, friends, family, and of course, their countries. And still they make no difference to history.

For decades it seemed their primary objective was to get civil servants and spies from the other side to betray their country. Yet they were beside themselves at the thought of it happening among their own. But of course it did, and The Art of Betrayal depicts decades of such betrayal, and all the resources and manpower it took to pull it off or detect it, neutralize it or exploit it. The details are exquisite.

MI6 began in 1909, aimlessly counting things: trains, people, cargo. "Much of the routine work of MI6 was a form of glorified trainspotting." Before World War I, people were paid, for example, to help determine German naval strength by strolling around harbours and noting the vessels there.

Yet 45 years later, when it came to intelligence from inside the USSR, the USA and the UK both had "absolutely nothing". Instead, they all played out a cheap drama in Vienna and Berlin, chasing each other for scraps of meaningless data, and of course, encouraging betrayal. The novels of Graham Greene, Ian Fleming and John Le Carré, all fulltime spies, glorified the mostly boring, mostly mundane, and almost always futile existence of their real lives.

Then suddenly, the game changed. Kim Philby's treachery led to suspicions of traitors everywhere. MI5 investigated MI6, which investigated MI5 and the CIA. It got to the absurd point where they were investigating the prime minister, Harold Wilson, as a Communist spy. Meanwhile the CIA suspected everybody, including itself, because it could not believe it had never had a traitor to call its own. It had one soon enough however, in the person of Aldrich Ames.

Soon, spies who worked the Soviet Block were at a disadvantage and looked down on. A rising star was told "You've got to know too many Russians". "But that's the job!" was the ignored reply. So instead of a head office promotion, he was transferred out of Geneva to the Far East.

Every decade seemed to have its all star Soviet informer, who sent MI6 scrambling in all directions following up his leads. And it still all amounted, as ever, to nothing. No wars were averted, no attacks prevented, no lives saved.

Possibly the worst example is Osama Bin Laden, an actual villain the CIA tracked through the 90s, with a view to eliminating him. The bureaucracy, rules, regulations and orders, not to mention bridges burned with the Afghans and Pakistanis, meant it never followed through or accomplished anything. Then 9-11 came - as a shock - and CIA staff vacated their building expecting it to be a target.

This was quickly followed by incredible dollops of selective nonsense accepted by Western leaders to justify war in Iraq. The total fraud of evidence stopped no one. And the intelligence community, in a Keystone Kops slapstick comedy, kept piling it up. To the public it was obvious. To Blair, Bush, Cheney and Powell, it was concrete proof. The result, as we know, is an increase in terrorist threats, as Islam feels under attack. MI6 was justifiably humiliated.

Corera writes in a clear, spare, direct style. He wastes no words. No pointless adjectives discolor the discourse. It's active voice, with nary an extra comma. It is a style that is rare and precious, and delivers far more impact than the more florid prose we see daily. The Art of Betrayal is information far more valuable than the data collected by its characters. As more than one of his sources has described it, intelligence spying "does more harm than good".

David Wineberg
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing and relevant, 14 Aug 2011
Easy to read and entertaining, gives a revealing picture of the real people and personalities involved in the secret service of the decades.

The book builds to the role played by MI6 and JIC in the decision to go to war in Iraq. In the final chapter I got the feeling for the importance of the rivalries, pressures and personal relationships that played their part in producing the "dodgy dossier" - the document that was released to the public as justification for the invasion of Iraq. I highly recommend this book for that last chapter alone and especially to anyone interested in how the case was made for the Iraq war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We've been expecting you Mr Bond!, 12 Feb 2013
For people like me who havent yet heard the inside story on Philby etc, this book provides a fascinating insight into M16 and its many tangled webs. Well written and with great reviews, this book will appeal to anyone remotely interested in the dark world of spies and moles in the UK, USA and Russia/former Soviet Union.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best book on the secret service since Spycatcher, 8 Jan 2013
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This review is from: MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service (Kindle Edition)
This is a really decent book full of a mixture of anecdotes and gossip from the secret service for the last 100 years. He does meander sometimes which can make you lose chain of though but in the main this is a really good book. What marks it from others is that it lifts the lid on recent operations and is certainly a lot more candid than similar books. Very happy.
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