The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal by David E Hoffman
|The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal by David E Hoffman|
|Reviewer: Chris Bradshaw|
|Summary: A fantastic Cold War espionage story that proves that real life is often more outrageous than fiction.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: June 2017|
|Publisher: Icon Books Ltd|
|External links: Author's website|
With the Cold War at its frostiest, there were few tougher locations for western intelligence agencies to try and run an agent than 1970s Moscow. That makes the tale of Adolf Tolkachev, a Russian engineer who provided thousands of top secret documents to the Americans right under the noses of the KGB, all the more incredible.
It all started with a note passed through the window of the CIA station chief's car while filling up with petrol. Was this offer of a meeting the genuine article or a trap dangled by Moscow Centre? After lengthily establishing Tolkachev's bona fides, the expert in radar technology went on to become one of the CIA's most valuable assets.
The stakes of course were astronomically high for Tolkachev. One misstep by him or his American handlers would lead to an appointment with the firing squad.
With the US officials under constant surveillance they had to come up with some fantastic ruses to shake off their KGB snoopers. The hidden cameras and invisible ink, disguises, costumes and cardboard cutout car passengers sound almost farcical but did the job amazingly well.
In return, Tolkachev provided a mother lode of information on Soviet aviation technology which is estimated to have saved the US billions of dollars and years of research.
Often reading like an espionage novel, The Billion Dollar Spy is packed full of fascinating detail, especially the tradecraft of the American agents. How the would spend hours trailing around the streets of Moscow to shake off any KGB tails prior to a face to face meeting with their star asset. The operational decisions of the CIA case officers are equally insightful. Would a request for western rock albums and something as seemingly mundane as ink lead to awkward questions that Tolkachev would be unable to answer?
At times, the surveillance verges on the ridiculous. A US agent, whose phone was bugged, arranged to drive to a restaurant with his wife but got lost en route. One of the cars tailing him passed in front and the US agent followed. Sure enough he got straight to the restaurant with the minimum of fuss.
Despite the comic moments, this was an extremely serious business. The book's subtitle is A story of Cold War espionage and betrayal and when that betrayal arrives it's from a shocking and unexpected source.
Full of courage, skill and daring Adolf Tolkachov's story is an extraordinary one and author David E Hoffman tells it extremely well. Superbly researched and packed full of insider knowledge, The Billion Dollar Spy gallops along as thrillingly as the best spy novels. Anyone with the slightest interest in espionage or the Cold War would be advised to take a look.
FURTHER READING SUGGESTION: Stalin's Englishman – The Lives of Guy Burgess by Andrew Lownie.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal by David E Hoffman at Amazon.com.
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