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The Spy and the Traitor

Written by: Ben MacIntyre
Narrated by: Ben Macintyre
Length: 14 hrs and 32 mins
Categories: History, Military
5 out of 5 stars (36 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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A very well written spy story.

The book is awesome specially the escape sequence. Very nice and engaging book on spy craft

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Puts James Bond to Shame

Ben MacIntyre brilliantly narrates the events in the life of Oleg Gordievsky,
In a way it’s nothing short of a John Le Carre novel, only, it’s a true story.

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Exhilarating true story of cold war espionage!

The book is so well put together that the listener virtually enters the story and becomes a part of the scene! Loved the narrator's skills for making it so easy to understand with clear pronunciations. My memorable moment was the one when Oleg discovers that his unique apartment door lock was unlocked, meaning that his apartment was bugged and he is under surveillance! I would love to see a movie made out of this book!

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Simply brilliant

I would say unputdownable, but since this is an audiobook I don’t know what term to use.
The story was captivating, and the pace was good. The author who happens to be the narrator has done a fantastic job.

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For the espionage buffs !!

Eclectic mix of a spy thriller and a documentary . Great oration as well by Ben . Must - Have for all the espionage buffs !!

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Fun interesting read for interest in espionage

The author is experienced in this material and has a great flow to the storytelling. The narration was great and since it was the author, he probably had an idea how to make it interesting as well. The story isn't for those who'd like to understand the cold war itself, but that furiously intriguing side of espionage. While context is sufficiently provided for a layman, this book is about spying. Not politics.

If this ever becomes a movie, it'd be great.

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  • BM
  • 24-08-19

Took me back to my childhood

I grew up on a dose of spy novels, fascinated by espionage, intrigue and mystery. Happened to pick up this book on a lark after so many years and was taken back to my childhood.

Gripping true story, narrated in a brilliant manner by the author himself, this book was a great companion; completely unputdownable. Strongly recommended

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A RACY READ - GREAT STORY

Loved this book.. never have I finished a book of this size in less than 10 days!!!

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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.

4 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

3 people found this helpful

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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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  • Tim Martin
  • 24-05-20

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
  • 17-05-20

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
  • 05-05-20

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
  • 18-12-19

Superb!

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

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  • Nouvation
  • 08-11-19

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
  • 23-10-19

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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  • Paul
  • 03-10-18

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.

29 people found this helpful

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  • MR TW ASKEW
  • 27-09-18

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
  • 26-09-18

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
  • 27-09-18

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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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-03-19

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!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-10-18

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
  • 25-09-18

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • M. Mcdermott
  • 08-02-20

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.

1 person 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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  • Rui Ribeiro
  • 26-05-19

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 person found this helpful

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  • Ian
  • 17-10-18

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 people found this helpful

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  • Kirsty
  • 31-12-18

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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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-12-18

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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  • J.G. Buckley
  • 15-12-18

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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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-12-18

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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  • Luke Murray
  • 08-12-18

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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  • Philip
  • 07-09-19

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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  • Jennifer2
  • 03-08-19

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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  • Stuart Griffiths
  • 31-07-19

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 person found this helpful

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  • Richard Forshaw
  • 29-07-19

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