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A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal Audio Download – Unabridged

4.6 out of 5 stars 493 customer reviews

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By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 16 Mar. 2014
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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By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 April 2014
Format: Hardcover
British author Ben Macintyre is an excellent writer who has written at least three other books about spies and WW2 and the Cold War. Each of them is very good, and Macintyre adds a degree of humor otherwise missing in many other books on the subject. His new book, "A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal" is another in a long line of good books on espionage. The problem with this book - and with me as the reader and the reviewer - is that I am so disgusted with the men Macintyre writes about - particularly Kim Philby - that I just didn't enjoy the book as much as his previous books.

Kim Philby was one of the great spies in 20th century history. A prolific gatherer of information in pre-WW2 Europe, during the war, and the Cold War afterwards for Great Britain, he was equally if not better at betraying the Brits to the Russian KGB and the NKVD. He was part of the "Cambridge Five" spy ring and fled to and died in the Soviet Union after being unmasked by the British Intelligence in the 1960's. (He was almost caught several times before but tidily arranged for his potential exposers' deaths so as to keep his double-crossing a secret.)

Kim Philby was part of the British "Old Boys' Network" of Oxbridge graduates from elite British families. If your father was well-known and respected, chances are you - the son - would be, too, and welcomed into intelligence work. That's how Kim Philby and many others - including Nicholas Elliott - got into the "spy business". Ben Macintyre writes well about these men and you'll probably enjoy the book. Just don't be surprised if you feel like you need a shower after finishing it.
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Format: Paperback
I found this book every bit as absorbing as promised. At one level, it is indeed a first rate thriller, an incredible page-turner, totally unputdownable. It is by no means the first account of its subject matter, but it offers a fresh perspective via concentration on the special relationship between Philby and his close friend, Nicholas Elliott. I have followed the saga faithfully ever since as one of tender years I registered the general shock at the flight of Burgess and Maclean, and then read avidly many years later Phillip Knightley’s still impressive account of what was then known about Philby and Co. Since then I have devoured all that I could get my hands on, even struggling through the offensively egotistical Peter Wright’s “Spycatcher.”

Ben Macintyre writes in a very different vein, thoughtfully, with dignity and in wonderfully lucid prose. He never insults the reader nor imposes assertively his own views. I must confess that I have not encountered his work previously but I’m strongly minded to explore his other much-celebrated accounts of espionage. I think it remarkable that he can achieve such poise in writing of quite such an extraordinary world. I imagine that MI6 is now a duller, if more secure institution.

This phenomenal amalgam of the socially elite, academically distinguished and seemingly perpetually inebriated, almost defies credibility. Guy Burgess, alone, was of quite amazing singularity: a flamboyant homosexual, apparently born with massive social confidence, charming, rude, contemptuous of authority and convention, aggressive, free-loading, possessed of the most amazing capacity for alcohol, yet blessed with a razor-sharp intellect.
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