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Ace of Spies: The True Story of Sidney Reilly (Revealing History (Paperback)) by [Cook, Andrew]
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Ace of Spies: The True Story of Sidney Reilly (Revealing History (Paperback)) Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Review

Like Bond, Reilly drove the fastest and most luxurious cars, enjoyed fine living, and had numerous affairs, although his conquests had more material motives than 007's --The Times

Brilliantly cuts through the webs of lies that Reilly spun...a fascinating tale of dark deed, treachery and sculduggery. --BBC History Magazine

Makes poor 007 look like a bit of a wuss --The Mail on Sunday

About the Author

Andrew Cook is an author and TV consultant with a degree in history and ancient history and a former programme director of the Hansard Scholars Program, University of London. The author has written for the Times, the Guardian, the Independent, BBC History Magazine, and History Today. His has also written On His Majesty's Secret Service, To Kill Rasputin, Prince Eddy, Cash for Honours, and The Great Train Robbery.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1998 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press; 3rd edition (26 Aug. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0078XH9KQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #264,112 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reilly may have been an inspiration for Ian Fleming's Bond but he creates a very different impression to the popular image. His abilities, his energy and his ruthlessness in gaining the confidence of very shrewd people from senior MI5 controllers to Lenin to business partners in Russia, Japan and New York, in all of which he made and lost fortunes, was immense. And all this done at the same time as keeping a string of mistresses and wives on the go.

Reilly was born Sigmund Rosenblum around 1872 probably in Odessa in Russia. At eighteen he was arrested by the tsarist secret police, faked his death in the Odessa harbour and came to London and established "business" developing and supplying patent medicines and counterfeiting. He participates in the murder of Hugh Thomas in order to avail himself of a very rich widow and to gain a new identity.

In 1893 he was recruited to the MI5 by William Melville who was no mug - "without doubt one of the most intriguing and distinguished men ever to lead the Special Branch." Melville saw the value of Rosenblum's emigre network as well as networks among journalists and the influential in generating intelligence.

However when his frauds began to catch up with him, Melville facilitates Rosenblums' change of identity to Reilly and arranged for him to return to Russia and thence to Manchuria via China. When Japan invades Manchuria there is intense speculation that Reilly is spying for both Japan and for Melville in MI5.

My attention was drawn to Reilly by an account of the D'Arcy Affair which directly led to the establishment of Britain's leading oil company. In 1904 the Board of the Admiralty predicted that oil would supercede coal as the source of fuel supply to the Navy.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When reviewing Richard Spence's book on the subject (`Trust No One: The Secret World of Sidney Reilly'), I rather despairingly concluded: "I'm now going to have to read another serious book on Reilly in the hope of getting a clearer picture". Well, this is that other book. Have I got a clearer picture? I believe so, yes, with some reservations.

While Robin Bruce Lockhart indulged freely in myth-making in the most famous account of Reilly's life (`Reilly: Ace of Spies'), and while Spence was over-enamoured of speculation and conspiracy theories, Cook sticks firmly to the facts as far as they can be established. Where he does indulge in a cautious bit of hypothesising, this is clearly flagged up. The result is a much diminished picture of Sidney Reilly. This is no super-spy who juggled with the fates of nations; this is a nasty little conman and psychopath who didn't hesitate to kill people who got in his way, and who came to the sticky end he so richly deserved. One really does not get the impression Cook particularly likes his subject (although he grudgingly admires his courage whilst facing his death). But in bringing Reilly firmly down to earth, he makes his version of events all the more believable.

This book certainly has its faults. The title is misleading, for a start. A better one might have been `Ace of Spies, My Foot!' as Cook doesn't think much of Reilly's achievements in the field of espionage, concluding he wasn't "in the conventional sense, a spy at all". And, as ever with these print-on-demand efforts, the quality of the printing, binding and proofreading leaves a lot to be desired, although moving the first paragraph of the preface to the end of the introduction is a new one on me.
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Format: Paperback
This is a review of the 2008 reprint of the 2004 edition of this book.

This is a most difficult review to write. One does not want to give anything away that will detract from the readers' enjoyment of the book and yet the analysis of the quality of the book requires evidence to support claims. I have given it a 3 star rating but that is rather misleading. In many aspects the book is outstanding and Cook is to be congratulated on his achievements. However in other aspects it is at the other end of the spectrum. Fundamentally, Cook needed to find a good editor to modify his manuscript into something more worthy of the volume of the research work he has put in and the quality of the information he imparts.

Cook allows his personal opinion to colour the context almost every incident is reported within. For example when Reilly and Hill return to Southern Russia, at the request of "C", the chance to, once again, portray Reilly as a serial liar is taken "...Christmas Day was, according to Reilly, a very quiet affair, as were the New Year celebrations at the Kuban club in Ekaterubidar. In complete contrast, however, Hill recalls that the Celebrated New Year at the Palace Hotel in Rostov and refers in graphic detail to :..." and so it goes onto narrate a wild party that ends up with Hill leading the revellers up and down the stairs, into the attics to the strains of the Old Hunters' March. Having then made the claim, in this instance, Cook then debunks his own theory. One is using the Russian New Year and the other the Western New Year. So why make the first point of contrasting their apparently totally different accounts of the same event ? The assertion that Reilly is a serial liar has been made repeatedly throughout the text to that point.
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