The Spy and the Traitor

Ben Macintyre's story of a Russian Spy is the a great culmination of different sources to tell a concise and interesting story. Providing pivotal perspectives from different source to tell a complete story with no fluff and no overt bias.

The Spy and the Traitor

The Book in 1 Sentence

A well narrated description of a spy that made decision after decision to bring the world to a more peaceful place without sacrificing the lives of his countrymen that he outed.

Brief Review

Ben Macintyre's story of a Russian Spy is the a great culmination of different sources to tell a concise and interesting story. Providing pivotal perspectives from different source to tell a complete story with no fluff and no overt bias.

Why I Read this book

I had started A Spy Named Orphan a while ago and while I was reading it and thinking that this guy is a traitor, I felt it was fair to read about a spy that defected to the allies.

In-Depth Review (Favorite Quotes)

This book is outstanding. Macintyre provides a fluid and comprehensive story about the background of Oleg Gordievsky, the events that lead to his defection, and the actions he took while still working at the KGB.

The book is very well paced, presenting what is really the important information about the motivating circumstances that lead to Oleg's defection. What is really interesting is that Oleg grew up in the KGB. His dad was old school KBG which meant that he committed atrocities before WWII and then his brother was an "Illegal," which is someone who is in a foreign country without diplomatic cover. Yet, somehow his morals went a different direction.

What I really appreciate about this book as compared to A Spy Named Orphan due to there wasn't this constant push to tell you that he was conflicted about his decision, that we should feel sorry for him. Maybe that is due to personal allegiances and perception of where they defected, but this book allows for you to draw your own conclusions rather than pushing toward a specific feeling or idea.

My favorite part of this book is during the escape from USSR. Learning that someone currently an annoying figure in politics between the UK and Russia was someone involved just brings me joy.

How my life / behavior / thoughts / ideas have changed as a result of reading the book.

So in consuming these books back to back, I wanna attempt to be fair to these people as they are not Aldrich Ames. As a side note, Ames was middling mediocre government bureaucrat in the US that married a Columbia prima donna that wanted to use his money to live a life she believes she should have had which just happens to be the same mind set that he should have been promoted and have a better lifestyle. He went on to sell names of agents in the USSR/Russia, policy documents, procedures for CIA operatives, and more for $4.5+ million and in 3 days after being captured pled guilty. He is a case study for DoD individuals in their annual security training, however, this book does a lot more to describe the amount of damage he did the the US intelligence apparatus. Oleg and Maclean defected for moral and philosophical differences with their home country. On that note, I have great respect for an individual willing to stand up for their beliefs. However, that is fine until you break the law or, more importantly, put someone else in danger of physical or mortal harm. Ames got people killed. Maclean got people killed. Due to the function of Democracy and Republics over Communism in the USSR/Russia, the people that Oleg exposed went to jail and MOST of them were released back to society before their full term. Also, while Maclean had desires to bring peace, he believed in a USSR that was fake and never existed and his naivety helped the USSR achieve nuclear weapons. That is where Oleg was actually able to make a difference. He was able to coach UK and US representatives about the mindset of of Soviets with the placement of Nuclear weapons or when Gorbachev took over was able to help PM Thatcher to have constructive conversations that most likely lead the the fall of the Soviet Union.


This was what a spy book should be. A Spy Named Orphan was so dense and packed with inconsequential information I was concerned that this would be the same way. However, like Gray Day this book tells an amazing story filled with multiple perspectives. It is 100% worth reading if you have any care about the Cold War. This is an easy 8.

Extra Tidbits

So at the beginning of 2024 I somehow finished A Spy Named Orphan, Oppenheimer, and The Spy and the Traitor within a week or two of each other. However, they were all relatively related in some way. A Spy named Orphan talks about the the number of British spies that turned to Communism, probably because of the spring of socialism that took place in the 20s-30s. In this book, Maclean is recruited by Philby who then defects to USSR. Philby, during his time in Russia, was brought in to review cases the KGB had, support activities against the western world, and at time just teach KGB agents. In the 70s, Philby was brought in to help the KGB identify how a Swedish agent was compromised, this agent being identified by Oleg to the British who then told the Swedish. Philby after reviewing the evidence said that the compromise could only have come from the inside. What is also interesting is that Fauks, the British Scientist who was working on the Manhattan Project who was spying for the Russians was a concern for Maclean as it brought more pressure on him. If you watch Oppenheimer, you can see the actor who plays Fauks attempting to get more information, more responsibility, and took risk to see more about the explosion and setup than he needed. It is a great choice by the writers and directors to make those small things to point out his treachery. Really interesting the web of these people together.

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