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New Novel views Kim Philby through the Looking Glass

[This review written for EXAMINER.COM]

Harold Adrian Russell Philby, better known by his prescient nickname, “Kim,” continues to fascinate writers. Having falling prey to this compelling interest myself with my own research and story, I recall what the wife of a famous writer (someone who actively covered the Washington “spy” beat for many years back in the day) once told me when I shared my interest in all things Philby.  She called it an obsession-inducing black hole.

She understated the case.

So I waited for the latest offering from skilled espionage-stuff writer, Robert Littell, with great anticipation.

I wasn’t disappointed.

The recently released novel is called Young Philby. The narrative is voiced by several characters, real people who interacted with Kim Philby throughout his journey from naïve Cambridge student idealism to full-fledged treachery as one of the most notorious Soviet agents in history.  He was a man addicted to what one biographer called “the drug of deceit.”

Along the way in the pages of Littell’s interpretation of Kim’s life, we witness his (presumably) theory about Philby’s development as an espionage agent.  We learn about a key recruiter, an early love interest, and the order of things with relationship to the other well-known Cambridge spies: Guy Burgess, Donald MacLean, and Anthony Blunt.

Littell’s chronology when it comes to the order of recruitment seems to be one of the most fictional aspects of Young Philby, not fitting with the actual history of what happened. But then again, his ultimate speculation in the book about Philby’s real agenda and loyalty is, as well, clear fiction—compelling fiction—but fiction nonetheless.

A good book from an excellent author who knows his genre—Young Philby is a quick read that will linger in your mind.

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