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The Spy and the Traitor

Narrated by: Ben Macintyre
Length: 14 hrs and 32 mins
4.9 out of 5 stars (529 ratings)

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Publisher's 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

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Ian
  • 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.

6 people found this 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 people found this 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 people found this 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 people found this 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 people found this 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 people found this helpful

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A real life spy story

One cannot imagine how espionage really works until you realise much of the ‘fantasy’ one sees on books and films is mirrored in real life. This is about a man with unusual conscience who possibly lost everything for his actions. And remarkably he did it for the west and particularly for Britain. Any honour he got should perhaps be tripled. The betrayal was inevitable but sadly in the end by CIA defector colleague seeking cash.

1 person found this 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 person found this 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.

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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 person found this 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.

4 people found this 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

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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.

2 people found this 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 person found this helpful

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  • Sherri
  • 12-10-2020

Never wanted it to end

If you enjoy spy driven suspense you’ll love this meticulously researched, beautifully written novel. It’s all true and even more enjoyable for that. Enhanced by being read by the author. Thoroughly recommend.

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  • Lawrence Dembo
  • 18-08-2020

Who knew?

Quite the most extraordinary story. Bravery and ideology from a time not so long ago. Beautifully written, researched and read. Couldn’t put it down.

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  • Tim Martin
  • 24-05-2020

Against all odds

Chewing gum signals, spiked drinks, cyphers, invisible ink... rollicking good fun! A fascinating insight into spycraft and the Cold War warriors who put their lives on the line, albeit for a mix of personal motivations. Much daring-do and against all odds dice-rolls. Reads like a thriller.

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  • John
  • 17-05-2020

Magnificent!

The story is spellbinding, the narrator performs brilliantly, and the author proves once again that he is amongst the top five in his area of interest. Do not miss it!!

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  • Marianne
  • 05-05-2020

Tremendous story, beautifully told

I loved this book. Really well told. Would absolutely recommend it to anyone who appreciates a little history and suspense. The story is really well told, and the amount of research must have been enormous. Good job. Worth the money and then some.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 18-12-2019

Superb!

What an enthralling saga.Was embroiled in the spy craft of the era from page 1. A must listen

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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.

32 people found this 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.

12 people found this 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!

18 people found this 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!

5 people found this helpful

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  • G A Lloyd
  • 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!

4 people found this helpful

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  • M. Mcdermott
  • 08-02-2020

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.

2 people found this 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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • MD
  • 25-09-2018

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • TK-421
  • 22-01-2020

Brainwashing Western Propaganda!

I’ve read a lot of books and stories about the Cold War and geopolitics in general and I was looking for another interesting read/audio on this topic and this book looked like a safe choice with 5/5 stars review! Wow, Really?!? Of course being written by a British author naturally the narrative would be very biased and tremendously critical towards the regime in the USSR, and I was kind of expecting that, however this is just another level of Western hypocrisy and grotesque propaganda! Big part of the book seems to be based more on one's personal views or interpretations rather than proper investigation and objective research by the author. Nevertheless I tried extracting the facts of the story rather than having another lecture on morale values...what a joke! Calling the USSR a despotic, brutal and totalitarian regime is pure and utter Western hypocrisy considering that Britain and it’s biggest ally, the US, are in no position to teach the world about freedom, democracy, valour and honesty! After all the West has orchestrated many regime changes and coups resulting in deaths and suffering of millions of people (not only during the Cold War) hence the author pointing his finger at the USSR and calling them evil empire is a complete farce. Just look at what these countries did to Indonesia and Cambodia..to name a few.. or ask Julian Assange where the freedom of speech and good morale has taken him! If you want to listen to all-out Anti-Russian/USSR western propaganda just turn the BBC on and spare yourself the money for this book...

1 person found this helpful

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  • MR
  • 23-11-2019

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!

1 person found this helpful