I received this book via LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.
The tales of espionage and international intrigue told in film and in the pages of fiction pale in comparison to real world events. Ben Macintyre chronicles in his new book, A Spy Among Friends, the lives and careers of history’s greatest spy and best friend, Kim Philby and Nicholas Elliot. The journeys of these men from the classrooms of Britain’s finest public schools into the covert world of spy craft in the early days of World War II through to a living room in a Beirut apartment building in the zenith of the Cold War while dealing family and politics is a page-turner beyond question.
Macintyre shows throughout the book how Philby’s personality and the ‘old boy’s network’ allowed him to last so long as a double agent while also cultivating loyalty from friends in both MI6 and CIA that later supported him when it was believed he was a double agent by investigators. He also explains how Philby’s career path, behind a desk, allowed his access to vast amounts of information to send to his Soviet handlers and to be on the lookout for anything that could expose him. Yet Macintyre’s inclusion of Elliot gives the reader a view into the field work of intelligence during the Second World War and the Cold War throughout Europe and the Middle East. It is in relating Elliot’s career and exploits that one realizes that Hollywood can make good stories, but can’t compare to real life.
Throughout the book Macintyre shows the real friendship that Philby and Elliot had until the very end when the former’s betrayal was finally exposed. Throughout the book famous intelligent officers and double agents liter the pages, including Ian Fleming, revealing how many people rubbed shoulders with one another. The only thing the damped the reading of this book was John Le Carre’s afterword which was primarily selections from discussions with Nicholas Elliot who spun is own versions of events in the later years of his life. Save for that tacked on addition, this book is a must read for those interested in Cold War espionage.