Well written and a very good and riveting story that feels like a novel rather than non-fiction. Macintyre gives us a fascinating account of Philby's friendship with and eventual betrayal of his best friend, and fellow agent Nicholas Elliot and of Angleton, the head of the CIA. Why did Philby become a spy? In Macintyre's view, it was to change the world since "the only bulwark against fascism was Soviet communism... and capitalism was doomed and crumbling." He was an ideological spy that would prove to be staggeringly successful. Philby thought communism was the answer to injustice, poverty and war. Macintyre puts it, "he was the fox not merely guarding the hen-house but building it, running it, assessing its strengths and frailties, and planning its future construction." Incredible but true. His Soviet handler referred to him as 'probably the best ever.'
Macintyre takes the reader through a complex series of events in lives of Philby and Elliot and the other key characters. At one point Elliot comes to Philby's defense when he was suspected and, astonishingly, managed to engineer Philby's return to MI6 (possibly because of the very strong class bound loyalties and rituals within M16).
The big question was whether Philby defected or was allowed to defect. Macintyre strongly suggests the latter as putting him on trail would have shaken the British establishment to the core and clearly shown the huge damage to British intelligence as well as American intelligence under James Angleton (who was 'destroyed' by the defection).
A very enjoyable book, that I would highly recommend. I especially enjoyed the questioning by Elliot trying to get Philby to confess just days before he finally defected.