Ben Macintyre on duplicity

book cover philbyBritish journalist Ben Macintyre’s absorbing new book A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal examines and exposes the human damage done in the real world by fanatical adherence to abstract dogma—in this case, communism and Soviet ideals. It continues Macintyre’s entertaining investigation of 20th century European espionage, following on the heels of Double Cross, Operation Mincemeat and Agent Zigzag—which the Boston Globe called “the best book ever written.” Ah, for blurbs like that. Coming from a privileged British upbringing and Cambridge, Philby was born to rule. Despite his university days’ conversion to the communist cause and recruitment as a Soviet spy,  he was readily accepted into the high ranks of the British intelligence service because most everyone there knew his family. In the 1940s and 50s he fed the Soviets information that enfeebled both British and American intelligence operations and cost hundreds of lives—not just intelligence operatives but also freedom fighters in Greece, Albania and elsewhere as Philby tipped off the Russians on their operations. Macintyre’s driving narrative of how Philby managed to pull the wool over the eyes of folks who should have known better makes this an engrossing read. An added bonus is a revealing afterword by John Le Carré on his interviews with one of the key players in this real-life drama of betrayal.