Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Book Review The Billion Dollar Spy by David E. Hoffman

The Billion Dollar Spy, by David Hoffman, is a riveting story from the late Cold War.   Hoffman has worked for years at both the Washington Post and PBS, and is also a Pulitzer Prize winning author of several previous histories of the Cold War and Russia.  

During the 1970s and early 1980s the United States and the Soviet Union were stuck in a seemingly permanent deadlock in which neither could gain a decisive advantage. Then one evening in Moscow a man knocked on the window of an American diplomat's car and handed him an envelope. This encounter led to a years long, productive relationship which gave the US detailed access to Soviet planning and technological developments. Finally, the US was able to gain the upper hand in this delicate ongoing balancing act.

Adolf Tolkachev was an engineer with high security clearances who provided these vast amounts of information over an ongoing period.  Dissatisfied, he was the first real access the US had to information of this caliber, for a variety of reasons.

Tolkachev's story is the focus of the book.  But Hoffman weaves in the narratives of other spies and those involved in this grand game for advantage, with the world's future hinging on their success.  I felt riveted and totally present in the stress and tensions these brave souls faced on an ongoing basis.

This book is beautifully detailed and meticulously researched.  Hoffman has used previously classified government documents and mixed in interviews.  I'm in awe and highly recommend The Billion Dollar Spy.

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