PositiveThe Washington PostThe best thing about the memoir of this very strong-willed and prickly man is that it’s a full Brennan, from beginning to end. This is a headstrong and unapologetic book, one whose author tells us what he really thinks — especially about President Trump ... For students of the CIA, this book is a narrative of life in an institution that is at once rigidly bureaucratic and toxically tribal ... Even when he’s recounting such moments of compromise, Brennan emerges in his account as a proudly stubborn man ... Trump supporters will wrongly see the book as vindication for their argument that Brennan was out to get Trump from the beginning.
RaveThe Washington Post... superb ... Rid’s achievement in this book is that he places our crazy, upside-down politics in a coherent historical context. The digital tools of our adversaries may be new, but the mission of manipulation is as old as the spy business ... Anyone who reads this account and doesn’t conclude that the Russians played the Trump campaign like a violin has a tin ear. But the deeper value of Rid’s book is that it takes us to the beginnings of modern manipulation, when Moscow created \'The Trust,\' a fake pro-Tsarist movement in the 1920s that allowed Moscow to watch, mislead and ultimately subvert its adversaries.
RaveThe Washington PostThe subtitle of Macintyre’s latest real-life spy thriller calls it \'The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War.\' Like pretty much everything in this fine book, the description is accurate ... Spy services, especially the British, normally guard their secrets obsessively, successes as much as failures. But MI6, as it’s popularly known, decided to let Macintyre tell this story, including more than 100 hours of taped interviews with Gordievsky. Remarkably, Macintrye was also able to interview every British intelligence officer involved in the case ... Macintyre has become the preeminent popular chronicler of British intelligence history because he understands the essence of the business. Real espionage is the opposite of James Bond gunplay and panache. It’s about waiting, planning, shadowing, hiding. At the core of espionage is deceit, but truly great operations such as the Gordievsky case require deep human trust.
RaveThe Washington PostThe Spy and the Traitor arrives at a moment when the machinations of Russian intelligence are the subjects of almost daily news stories. Russia and its ex-KGB president seem brutally dominant in the intelligence sphere. Ben Macintyre offers a refreshing reversal of that theme: In this story, it’s the Russians who get turned inside out by a British mole. It’s the Kim Philby case, in reverse. The subtitle of Macintyre’s latest real-life spy thriller calls it The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War. Like pretty much everything in this fine book, the description is accurate.
PositiveThe Washington PostAlthough the title reads like the caption crawl below a CNN report on Donald Trump and the Russians, the book wisely doesn’t mimic the preposterous plotlines of real life. Instead, it’s a traditional espionage story of dueling moles within U.S. and Russian intelligence … What undergirds Matthews’s sometimes fanciful plot and characters is his attention to detail … Matthews’s most interesting challenge is a character named ‘Vladimir Putin.’ We’ll never know if the description of this “fictitious” Russian president’s lovemaking is accurate, thank goodness. But this is a book that convinces us — with a wink — that it gets such details right.
John Le Carré
PositiveThe AtlanticLe Carré has found a clever solution to this problem in A Legacy of Spies. He has written a kind of prequel to the book that made him famous, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold ... Punctuating Guillam’s recollection, they [current-day legal jeopardy] interrupt the momentum of the story, and the voices of the characters begin to blur a bit ...le Carré seems to me to be rooting for the spies in this book—yes, with ambiguities and meditations on whether the mission was really worth it. Yet this time around, they’re unquestionably the good guys ...Guillam graduates at the end of the book to a Smiley-esque, world-weary angst ...tough field agents like Leamas and Guillam achieve a nobility in this book that eclipses even that of our oft-betrayed hero, the reflective, German-monograph-reading Smiley.
PositiveThe Washington PostAdam Johnson has taken the papier-mache creation that is North Korea and turned it into a real and riveting place that readers will find unforgettable … Johnson’s book is an audacious act of imagination: an intimate narrative about one of the most closed nations on Earth, a place so shuttered that it concealed the Dear Leader’s death for more than 24 hours … I haven’t liked a new novel this much in years, and I want to share the simple pleasure of reading the book. But I also think it’s an instructive lesson in how to paint a fictional world against a background of fact: The secret is research.
RaveThe Washington PostTo write a fat novel about the Vietnam War nearly 35 years after it ended is an act of literary bravado. To do so as brilliantly as Denis Johnson has in Tree of Smoke is positively a miracle … This is war as hallucination. It's a story of the decomposition and degradation of the characters and, by implication, Vietnam … The Vietnamese here are timeless, features of a landscape against which the American characters batter themselves senseless...They take the beating America inflicts, but they seem impervious to it … As a serious war novel, Tree of Smoke is implicitly a story about all wars. And a reader cannot travel this journey without thinking about America's current war in Iraq.