A Spy Named Orphan : The Enigma of Donald Maclean

by Roland Philipps

Hardcover, 2018


Checked out
Due Jun 28, 2019



New York, N.Y. ; London : W. W. Norton & Company, [2018]


Donald Maclean was one of the most treacherous spies of the Cold War era and a key member of the infamous "Cambridge Five" spy ring, yet the full extent of this shrewd, secretive man's betrayal has never been explored--until now. Drawing on a wealth of previously classified files and unseen family papers, A Spy Named Orphan meticulously documents his extraordinary story.--Provided by Publisher.

User reviews

LibraryThing member drmaf
Sympathetic biography of the most enigmatic of the Cambridge spies. In contrast to Philby's amoral ruthlessness and Burgess' freewheeling self-destructiveness, Maclean was measured, motivated and plausible as he carried out what was arguably the most damaging espionage of the Cold War. Highly placed in the Foreign Office, Maclean sent prodigious reams of intelligence to Moscow, meaning that from the pre-war period on, Stalin had access to the topmost secrets of Western planning and policy, literally nothing was secret from the Soviets tanks to Maclean. Born of a family wedded to public service, Maclean's father was a cabinet minister of the strictest morals, and young Donald was brought up in the impeccable traditions of public school, sport and duty to King and Country and duly went off to Cambridge. But while he was there, something broke inside Maclean. He embraced Communism, decided that Western democracy was decadent and doomed to fail and that Communism represented the best society for the most people. He was duly recruited by Soviet illegal Theodore Maly, instructed to give up obvious political activity and join the Foreign Office as a agent of the NKVD. For the next two decades he rose steadily in the Service, praised for his extreme diligence and intelligence, meanwhile sending everything he could get his hands on to Moscow Centre. Unlike Philby and Burgess, his private life was unremarkable and restrained, with only two significant romantic relationships, first his handler Kitty Harris, then marrying an American, Melinda Marling. However the strain of his double life eventually began to tell, his drinking grew steadily and his iron control began to break down. After he was sent to Cairo, his life disintegrated, although he and Melinda patched together a life after returning to England, his espionage career was effectively over. His treachery was finally exposed by the decryption of Soviet telegrams, but the bungling of British intelligence enabled Philby to warn him in time and he and Burgess escaped to Europe and disappeared for 5 years. He lived the rest of his life in Russia as an intellectual, honoured by the Soviet state, never recanting or regretting his treason. The author is clearly sympathetic towards Maclean, glossing over the morality of his treason, and highlighting the contrast with the questionable lives of the other Cambridge spies, however it remains an excellent read. Highly recommended.… (more)



Page: 0.1376 seconds