At first glance, one may well ask, what kind of book is this? Because it consists for almost its entire length solely of thumbnail biographical sketches and analyses of the leading figures in the world of espionage over the last several decades. Sometimes these run a couple of pages. More often, they run only a few paragraphs. Then the rest of the book is very brief descriptions of the leading intelligence services around the world and the most important intelligence techniques. There is no plot. It is encyclopedic in style.
But, in fact, of several books on the subject of espionage reviewed lately, this is the most satisfactory. The authors, foreign correspondents for the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph of London, are careful, responsible, not at all given to hyperbole, and above all, realistic. They are also able to say a good deal in a few words.
What emerges is a useful primer, for those who enjoy reading about spying--a nice reference book to have at their side. Since so many espionage books appear to be wild flights of fancy, it is particularly valuable to have such a sober, no-nonsense compilation of responsible consensus as to what has happened in the key situations.