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Summary

Bloomsbury presents A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre, read by Michael Tudor Barnes.

The Sunday Times number-one best-selling story of Kim Philby, history’s most famous traitor, featuring an afterword by John le Carré.

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.

©2014 Ben Macintyre. Afterword copyright © David Cornwell 2014. (P)2021 Soundings Audiobooks

Critic reviews

"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)

What listeners say about A Spy Among Friends

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amazing story

I had heard of Kim Philby but knew nothing more than that he was a British double agent who had escaped to the USSR. This book has revealed so much and painted an era of British mandarins relying on the old school boy network ... especially the Etonian network! I wonder how much of this is still relevant today in British Tory politics?

14 people found this helpful

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Intriguing Insights

One might have thought that little more could be added, of value, to the already huge mound of books dealing with the whole Philby/Cambridge Spy ring subject. This book defies that supposition. Its primary asset is the authors ability to expose what really matters in the story, which is that a small number of very damaged and unhappy individuals became prisoners of a toxic ideology, which allowed them to see their betrayal of trust to all and sundry as an act of political heroism. MacIntyre avoids glamourising the ring by emphasising their humanity. Philby used friendship as a tool, and in the end it is clear that without his cultivated friendships, it is unlikely he would have gone undetected for as long as he did. This story is as much about Philby's cunning, as it is about his opponents purblind refusal to think the unthinkable. Its a good account, with MacIntryres usual engaging appetite for the eccentric, odd, and absurd, details which make his books so entertaining.

11 people found this helpful

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an eye opener for sure...

Not really sure why I chose this audio but I do like John Le Carre so maybe that was in the background. Really glad I did what ever the reasons. There must be few people over the age of 60 who have not heard of the Cambridge Spies, Anthony Blunt being the third man, Guy Burgess and the notorious Kim Philby. This book looks beyond the tabloid coverage and sensationalism at the time. Philbys incredible betrayal of friends, family and country is hard to fathom and deeply unsettling. Philby was perhaps a product of his age and class but this book is startling in its detail and uncovered stuff that left me with my mouth open, although on reflection it should not have done. The world in which these British spies operated was a world riddled with class and snobbery - he comes from a good family ergo he is not a KGB spy. For years and years they operated and destroyed people and countries trust. Maybe they still do. I was horrified and fascinated in equal measure. Also suprised at the young ages of the protagonists - in their early 20's. Philby was a man who was loved and admired by his friends and family, gaining deep, unwavering loyalty in most. It is hard to see why in this book but then its not there to dwell on the human side of Philby and its often difficult to put that across successfully. The recording is a little patchy in places and the background noise in one of the later chapters - (7 or 8) was a bit distracting but that is a very minor detail. The narration is good but the accents leave a bit to be desired, not the narrators strong point. There are also a few odd pauses - that is nit picking but good to be aware of. If you have any interest in spies or the cold war that is not fiction look no further. I might even take a subscription to BritBox to see this adapted for the small screen

11 people found this helpful

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Excellent narration of a brilliantly written book.

The story is almost unbelievable but it is true. The book is very well witten and researched. The excellent narration added to the book. I could not stop listening. Just great!

9 people found this helpful

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incredible story, well written and expertly read

I am a fan of all Ben MacIntyres spy histories. I have this in paperback but it's so good I thought I'd "read" it again via Audible. brilliant, 5*.

7 people found this helpful

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well explained and decent narration.

Ben MacIntyre brings everything together with well ballamced description and understanding of his subject.

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probably the best Audible book I've listened to

what a superb narration and transfixing story, I've listened to it twice now awesome

6 people found this helpful

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Incredible history

It's hard to believe that this story is true but it's very interesting. It would have been interesting to hear more about the reaction of the public to what happened and how it changed the intelligence services as well as the facts of the main protagonists.

5 people found this helpful

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Interesting

An interesting book but not as captivating as others of the genre. Still, definitely worth listening too. Narration excellent.

3 people found this helpful

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superb

Forensic analysis of Kim Philby told like a novel. Gripping, almost comical in parts, revealing and thought provoking in equal measure. I Found this through a mention by Richard Osman. Thanks M
r Osman! .

3 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for Norma Miles
  • Norma Miles
  • 30-09-21

"We work like a club."

Trusted in MI6 because of his 'one of us' background, Harold Adrian Russell Philby, better known as Kim, was nevertheless ideologically a communist working for the USSR as a spy within the British Secret Service from pre second world war times until the early 1960s - some 30 years in total. This fascinating, well researched story tells of his life, his deceptions, his loves and friendships as well as his amazingly duplicitous nature. One friend in particular was one Nicholas Elliott, himself a risky star in MI6, was very close to the master spy, his background similar to that of Philby, trusted him implicitly through years of close association.
Perfectly narrated by Michael Tudor Barnes, A Spy Among Friends details both of their lives, as well as those of many others in the secret service at the same time and reads more like a spy novel worthy of John le Carre (who includes a fascinating end chapter from his personal talks with Nick Elliott) than plain history.
Recommended.

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  • JLBOSHOFF
  • 11-05-21

Interesting story

I found the book all in all very interesting and Kim Philby definitely led a crazy double life.

Some parts of the book I found boring with information and character overload. Don't get me wrong, it's a fascinating story but I did struggle through this book. The parts that I enjoyed I was hoping for a little bit more.