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The Spy and the Traitor

Narrated by: Ben Macintyre
Length: 14 hrs and 32 mins
Categories: History, Military
5 out of 5 stars (319 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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

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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Ian
  • Brisbane, Australia
  • 17-10-2018

Exceptional

Well written with a lively narration by the author, this is a terrific book. Always captivating, at times nail biting and with laugh out loud moments such as the character descriptions of Richard Bomhead and others, this was an amazing story that kept me enthralled from beginning to end. Thoroughly recommended.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Another cracking spy yarn, and this one is true!

I dimly remember a news story about this man but I won't relate it - no spoilers in this review! Suffice it to say, this is a tale of conviction, persistence, incredible courage, patience and determination. The author narrates his story brilliantly, and has pieced it together without access to any official documentation, presumably relying on the memories of main characters and bit players alike. Those of us who lived through the 80s owe the subject an enormous debt of gratitude, for keeping his head when all around were losing theirs, intent on dangerous oneupmanship in the nuclear stakes. Thank you.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

So far, this is one of the best books I have read this year. Many politcal facts relating to the Cold War are revealed. The Spy's attempted escape from Russia is gripping. Will he make it out alive? This is one book that fits into the category of 'not being able to put it down'. I now need to catch up with some sleep as I listened to the final chapters until the early morning!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Definitive & Outstanding

An outstanding account of Cold War espionage by the master Ben MacIntyre. Gripping from start to finish- a must read/ listen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Riveting and thrilling!

This was the best true spy story I've ever read! Superbly told and expertly read, this will have you on the edge of your seat!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this book, but it was unbelievably good. I couldn’t stop listening! Highly recommend.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

I really enjoyed this story and found a new genre to look for. Make a note of names as they come into the story, because they many Russian names are similar.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Drama and intrigue

Fascinating story, told in a very suitable way. Captivating listening to the very end. Makes us appreciate the freedoms we take to granted.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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brilliant. captivating.

This was a book that I didnt want to end. You grow to know the charachters. An intriguing view into the worked of espionage and spies. Great voice performance by the author too. A 9.5/10 from me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Unbelievable, but True

I could not stop listening. What personal cost this man displayed to preserve freedom and democracy in the West. I am sure that modern day socialists and marxists squirm when they reflect on the courage of this man. What are the alternatives to Democracy? Jeremy Corbyn should be made to read this book, and left wing apologists should experience some time in Chinese or Russian re-education camp. They should also reflect on the inhumanity of extremes of left and right ideological thinking.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Bruce
  • 28-03-2019

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Neuron
  • 18-10-2018

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

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 27-06-2019

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Sara Jardine
  • 21-06-2019

Cracking story

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Nouvation
  • 08-11-2019

A fitting tribute

Great tale, well told. Hero, villan you decide but bravery is not in question! Off to find more like this.

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  • Orca
  • 23-10-2019

Nicely paced and stranger than fiction

Enjoyable and insightful look at the odd universe of old school spies and trade craft; the excitement and the banality. Ben MacIntyre is a fine writer and narrator.

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  • Kristian Olsen
  • 22-08-2019

Great book in every sense!

Great story of the cold War after reading this I have to say that I am glad I chose another job then being a spy

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  • Don
  • 13-06-2019

Loved it!

Great background detail and plot development. Amazing true story with depth and intrigue. Highly recommended.

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  • Lars
  • 10-06-2019

A gripping story of the spy world

a truly gripping g story of of another world not k own by most people. difficult to conprehend the reality and fatality risk fir the people involved.

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  • Arno
  • 14-05-2019

Absolute must Read / Hear ! excellent

gives great detail to the cold war period. how a KGB spy saved the world from nuclear war.

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  • Paul
  • 03-10-2018

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.

24 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • robert
  • 26-09-2018

Amazing

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

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • MR TW ASKEW
  • 27-09-2018

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.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Ovekat
  • 27-09-2018

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!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-03-2019

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!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Rui Ribeiro
  • 26-05-2019

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Lee Williams
  • 23-05-2019

Fantastic

I have never felt the need to leave a review before, until now.
Amazing is an understatement, i was on the edge of my seat with anticipation throughout, brilliantly written and narrated. An unequivocally awe inspiring true espionage story !
What are you waiting for !

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • 05-03-2019

Truly Captivating Spy Epic

This has to be one of the best audiobooks I have listened to in a long time - it is one of those audiobooks that keeps you sat outside your house in the car because you want to finish off the chapter or know what happens next!

Truly gripping and all true - what a hero this guy was.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-10-2018

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Matt L.
  • 04-10-2018

Highly recommended

Having listened to all of Macintyre"s books this is easily the best. I knew nothing about the story at the beginning but couldn't stop listening once I started.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful