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Could Kim Philby, legendary British spy turned traitor and one of the Cambridge Five university students recruited by the Soviets in the 1930s actually have been a triple agent, working for MI6 while he was purportedly spying for the Russians and then continuing to serve Britain even after he escaped to the Soviet Union in 1963? Espionage-fiction master Littell thinks so and constructs a thoroughly believable scenario based on some intriguing, if not definitive, historical evidence. But whether the premise is fact or fiction, Littell turns it into a cracking good spy thriller, drilling deeply into the multifaceted character of Philby and emerging with a Cold War drama that exposes how true believers of every stripe were seduced by the heady mix of deceit and intrigue that continues to define the great game of espionage. Especially fascinating is Littell's account of Philby's experiences working for the Communists in Spain, during which the young British aristocrat is transformed from an idealistic, stammering twit into a shrewd manipulator of those around him, a man irresistible to women and driven by a complex set of beliefs and desires. A must for Cold War buffs.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publishers Weekly
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Littell (The Company) offers an episodic, multifaceted look at the making of one of the world's most notorious double agents, Harold Adrian Russell Philby, better known as "Kim" (after the hero of Kipling's famous novel). After a prologue set in 1938 Moscow, the novel proper opens in 1933 Vienna, where Philby plans to aid refugees from Nazi Germany, but is really looking "for adventure, a cause to believe in, comradeship, affection, love, sex." He finds all of them, neatly bound up in Hungarian-born Communist activist Litzi Friedman, who eventually becomes his wife and introduces him to the Communist Party. As "one of the last romantics," Philby is an easy convert, but the inevitable question is what motivated him to betray his country. Littell provides no easy answers, though in a coda he suggests a tantalizing rationale for Philby's actions. Readers should be prepared for an overwhelming amount of period detail that robs the narrative of any substantial momentum. Agent: Ed Victor, Ed Victor Ltd. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.