Kim Philby – Our Man in Moscow

Title:                      Kim Philby – Our Man in Moscow

Author:                 Christian Shakespeare

Shakespeare, Christian (2015). Kim Philby: Our Man in Moscow—The Life of A Cold War Master Spy (2nd ed.). CreateSpace (self publishing)

ISBN: 9781311134936

e book available from Kindle

Date Posted:      December 14, 2016

Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1]

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[2]

Three recent books about onetime MI6 officer and KGB agent Kim Philby have each contributed in different ways to the continuing interest in the case. Two of these added new perspectives about his relationships with others and his traitorous motivations: one was based on scholarly research and interviews with those who knew Philby; the other was a memoir by a schoolboy friend and fellow MI6 officer.[3] The third book, Kim Philby: Our Man in Moscow, is an undocumented compendium of material whose most prominent qualities are the number of factual errors, the amount of pure speculation, dodgy judgments, sloppy editing, and lack of a single source. Readers familiar with the Philby saga will find nothing new in this book. Those new to the subject are cautioned not to begin their inquiry with this piece of literary malfeasance. Philby was not, as the author asserts, a “double agent” (p. 1), and the atomic material to which he and his Cambridge spies had access did not tip “the atomic balance away from the West.” (p. 6) His second wife bore each of his five children, not just three. (p. 6) Philby was not the first to let the VENONA secret “slip to the USSR.” (p. 134) And MI6 does not have a director general, nor was Philby “groomed for that position.” (p. 157) The unsupported claim that Philby “was the most damaging of all the traitors (p. 5) is unwarranted speculation equaled only by the author’s imagined description of Philby’s escape from Beirut. (p. 1)

Bluntly summarized, Kim Philby: Our Man in Moscow should be allowed to slip into history unread.

[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]

[2] Peake, Hayden in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (21, 3, Fall/Winter 2015, pp. 121-122). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence, Other reviews and articles may be found online at

[3] Macintyre, Ben (2014). A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby And The Great Betrayal. New York: Crown, and Milne, Tim (2014). Kim Philby: The Unknown Story of The KGB’s Master Spy. London: Biteback Publishing, both reviewed by Thomas G. Coffey in Studies in Intelligence (59, 1, March 2015, pp.79-81).

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