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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

The number one Sunday Times best seller

Shortlisted for the 2018 Baillie Gifford Prize

A thrilling Cold War story about a KGB double agent, by one of Britain's greatest historians - now with a new afterword.

On a warm July evening in 1985, a middle-aged man stood on the pavement of a busy avenue in the heart of Moscow, holding a plastic carrier bag. In his grey suit and tie, he looked like any other Soviet citizen. The bag alone was mildly conspicuous, printed with the red logo of Safeway, the British supermarket.

The man was a spy. A senior KGB officer, for more than a decade he had supplied his British spymasters with a stream of priceless secrets from deep within the Soviet intelligence machine. No spy had done more to damage the KGB. The Safeway bag was a signal: to activate his escape plan to be smuggled out of Soviet Russia. So began one of the boldest and most extraordinary episodes in the history of spying. Ben Macintyre reveals a tale of espionage, betrayal and raw courage that changed the course of the Cold War forever....

©2018 Ben MacIntyre (P)2018 Penguin Books Ltd

Critic reviews

"The best true spy story I have ever read." (John Le Carré)

What listeners say about The Spy and the Traitor

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Brilliant Documentary of the Cold War

If you listen to this in your car as I did, you will find yourself driving the long way round and parking up outside your home for extended periods.

I have found all of Ben Macintyre's work absolutely fascinating but this is perhaps his best work. Gripping for anyone that grew up during the Cold war. Thoroughly enjoyed this audio book and looking forward to further works.

54 people found this helpful

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Simply outstanding

I have been an audible member for many years and this is the best book I have listened to ever

I was transfixed from start to finish with the remarkable story telling and compelling rendition.

If you listen to one audio book, this is the one.

29 people found this helpful

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More gripping than any Agatha Christie novel!

Wow! what a story. An incredible true tale of a very brave Russian spy who provided incalculable intel to MI6 in the most gripping audiobook I've listened to. Superbly read by the author Ben MacIntyre, the audio becomes edge of the seat stuff as we relive Oleg Gordievsky's incredibly dangerous liaison with the British secret service and the necessity to smuggle Oleg and his family out of Russia develops into a gripping cannot put down narrative. Without giving anything away there is a twist in the tail as well!

10 people found this helpful

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Amazing

I finished this book in less than 48 hours and is simply amazing must listen too!

22 people found this helpful

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Interesting story

The story was very interesting, but I felt the book took an unnecessarily long time to tell it.

This often meant I'd zone out rather then be captivated, the epilogue was the best chapter in that respect, concise and to the point.

A few times I considered returning it as it just went on and on, with an overly detailed back story that didn't really affect the main point of the book.

A 7hr abridged version would be better in my opinion.

5 people found this helpful

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  • MR
  • 23-11-19

Un-put-down-able

An amazing story on many different levels. Other than the unmistakable; BBC style, extreme lefty, summary of the two main protagonists, I enjoyed the whole audiobook.

Most highly recommended!

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Fantastic.

Fantastic account of a supremely brave double agent whose actions have shaped our world.
One of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to.
Superbly written and superbly narrated by Ben Macintyre.
I highly recommend this audiobook - I promise you will not be disappointed!

5 people found this helpful

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Outstanding

This is a remarkable audiobook. The courage of Oleg Gordievsky and his sacrifice for an ideal are worthy of the utmost respect.The book provides a well written, detailed, compelling and exciting story of the entire Gordievky's path as a new KGB officer to his amazing escape to Britain and the sacrifices of Gordievsky and his wife and daughter. Couple that with an excellent narration and the result is a book that invites you to listen from beginning to end.

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  • MD
  • 25-09-18

Brilliant story

Macintyre can not only write a great story but he is also an excellent narrator
What makes this such an enthralling listen is that it actually happened. The suspense as Oleg escapes Russia is brilliant.

5 people found this helpful

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Another stonking read/listen by Ben Macintyre.

this was an amazing story, edge of the seat stuff and very British. I loved it and will be re listening soon.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Bruce
  • 28-03-19

Great listen.

The audible equivalent of a book you can’t put down.
Gripping story. Well researched. The first book for a long time that I couldn’t wait to continue. Narrator does a great job with the Russian pronunciation as well. Simply enjoyable whilst informative.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Neuron
  • 18-10-18

Leave a beer capsule under the bench in the park

This book is as good as it gets when it comes to spy stories. It starts out strong – diving straight into the story – and then it just keeps going. I can be a drifter, but it was impossible to drift away while reading this book. It keeps the reader engaged at all times.

The protagonist is Oleg Gordievsky. A real person! Indeed, an actual former KGB spy who defected and joined MI6, becoming one of the most important spies in the cold war. If you like the show “The Americans” then you are almost guaranteed to enjoy this book as well. I particularly appreciated the descriptions of how spies communicate with one another. It can go something like this: If spy X leaves an orange peel under the right side of a bench in the southwest corner of some park, then that means that someone is onto him. But if instead, he leaves a blue chalk mark on a light pole on street Y in SOHO, that means that he wants to meet.

The descriptions of spy communication are both fascinating and humorous. Indeed, as one would expect it can sometimes become confusing such as when one spy was supposed to drop a beer capsule instead dropped a ginger beer capsule. After a lengthy discussion it was decided that the spy probably did not distinguish between ginger beer and real beer.

Nevertheless, there is a lot more to this book. You get insight into the political atmosphere in the 1980s, You will encounter politicians as well as spies. Yet, first and foremost, you get a top-notch cat and mouse spy chase. And the best thing is that the story is, as far as I can tell, entirely factual. The author makes it clear when he is speculating, which I appreciate. If you are at all into these types of books, then you can’t go wrong with this book

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  • Anonymous User
  • 27-06-19

Exciting and brilliant.

Excellent well written, capturing a story so important to recent modern history. How brave all the characters are, irrespective of where they stand politically. The fear and limited choices were well described and real. How fortunate to be born and raised in the west.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Sara Jardine
  • 21-06-19

Cracking story

Fascinating and fantastical spy story made all the more gripping for being true! Made being stuck in motorway traffic a pleasure!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 16-05-22

Brave man, who gave a lot, but lost out on family

Shows the influence , one man can have on East/West relations.
A more recent, well placed individual, could have had a positive effect on the current Ukrainian situation.

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  • Ash
  • 03-09-21

Classic

I have listened to this in it’s entirety three times. A brilliant Cold War espionage tale, brilliantly researched and never stops you being enthralled. If it was fiction, you simply wouldn’t believe it. As for the narration, the author Ben Macintyre knocks this one out of the park. I could listen to him reading the phone book ! Highly recommend !!!!

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  • Sergiu P.
  • 27-07-21

Probably the most interesting book I ever read

Superbly narrated, exciting story full of details about the KGB and MI6, must read! A+

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  • Mikko Hiltunen
  • 01-06-21

Great book!

The thread of the story is easy to follow and the book is well structured. It doesn't get bogged down in useless minutiae, the level of detail is just right.

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  • tinyclanger
  • 14-05-21

Magnificent, thrilling read

Completely compelling, all the more so for being an account of real events. I don't always enjoy an author reading their own work, but this is perfect. Bravo.

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  • Alessia U
  • 16-04-21

Enjoyable

Historically, the book may actually not reflect the real facts. Nonetheless, the storyline is interesting, structured and well read, and I enjoyed it. It intrigued me into futher research about the character and the particular period of time.