RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThis enjoyable, picaresque and sometimes alarming book offers another good reason for maintaining careful oversight over the intelligence services: Spy-scientists tend to go rogue when left to invent their own devices.
RaveThe Times (UK)A multiple biography with overlapping chronology is a tricky feat and Buruma, an Anglo-Dutch author and former editor of the New York Review of Books, pulls it off magnificently, maintaining the distinct dramas, filleting fact from fiction with sympathy and balance, but maintaining the overarching psychological narrative. He never misses a mordant aside or a telling detail ... I wanted many more photographs. There are just seven small and grainy images inserted into the text. Frustratingly, Buruma frequently describes pictures the reader cannot see ... A superb book.
John Le Carre
PositiveThe Times (UK)Almost every [letter] was clearly intended for publication ... The later letters are performative, sometimes mannered, penned with one eye on posterity, winking ... These letters reflected one side of Cornwell, that of the generous friend and mentor to younger writers. There were many others, for like every good spy, he lived a highly compartmentalised existence, with multiple overlapping identities ... The collection is a fascinating if fragmentary autobiography, small snapshots of personality, written in the moment, that the author wanted his friends, relatives, acquaintances and the world to see ... The early letters are more raw and honest than the polished and self-conscious epistles of later years ... Only occasionally does an unguarded missive slip through in his later life.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... well-paced ... A former foreign correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, with experience in Germany and the Middle East, Fesperman has captured a seedy atmosphere of panic and moral compromise: While young people took pickaxes to the wall, the dinosaurs of the regime retreated to their luxurious gated compounds, fled or tried to leverage their evaporating power .... Fesperman accurately depicts the corrosive effect of life under a surveillance society, debasing both the watchers and the watched ... Most Cold War spy novels focus on the Manichaean ideological struggle between East and West; this one successfully explores a grayer era, when neither side in the conflict understood quite what was happening and the old rules of the game evaporated in a matter of weeks. The trade in truth and lies was booming, and nothing was as it seemed.
PositiveThe Times (UK)... the most comprehensive and insightful biography to date ... The author accepts Blake’s explanation of his conversion to communism — \'on grounds of principle alone\' — but this is too easy. Every double agent claims to be serving a higher ideological cause, while usually impelled by a slew of other factors, some of them unconscious.
MixedThe Times (UK)...[an] infuriating book ... The cover of this book proclaims it to be \'true\', but inside the author concedes it to be \'more of a novel\', with the result that it ends up somewhere between the two. This is frustrating because the author has an important story to tell ... There are moments of real tension ... All too often, however, in his quest for the zingy one-liner, Kean resorts to caricature ... Sentences frequently begin with phrases such as \'The problem was...\', \'The only hitch...\', “Mind you...”, \'Little did he suspect...\', and once, unforgivably, \'You can imagine the flabbergastation...\' This breezy, slangy style is initially quite amusing, swiftly becomes repetitive, and is finally so irritating that I wanted to find the author’s car and set fire to it ... Kean puts thoughts and feelings into the heads of real people ... Great swathes of history are reduced to a single sentence ... The Bastard Brigade is the past as fun, adventure and drama, a complex and often sinister story told through cartoons, colloquialisms and jokes; Horrible Histories for grown-ups.
MixedThe TimesThere is a splendid plot twist at the end. It\'s all great fun, but of course it is not Fleming ... There are several wince-inducing one-liners of the sort that made Sean Connery a star ... Horowitz has put together a fast-paced, skilfully written derivation on a theme so familiar most of us could hum it in our sleep. It is briefly intoxicating and unsatisfying, leaves you wanting more, and for serious Bond junkies is the next fix in a long tale of addiction.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...part history, part scholarly adventure story and part journalistic survey of the volatile religious politics of the Maghreb region. The title is quite irritating; the rest of it is very good ... Hammer writes with verve and expertise, but there are two problems with the thriller tone that underpins his story. The first is the question of just how 'bad-ass' Haidara really was. While his teams were removing manuscripts, he had evacuated himself to Bamako, offering coordination and encouragement from a distance. This is a perfectly acceptable decision for a middle-aged scholar with two wives and lots of children, but it doesn’t quite make him Indiana Jones The level of threat posed to the manuscripts is also debatable.