Thursday, January 04, 2018

Spies in the Family by Eva Dillon

Spies in the Family: An American Spymaster, His Russian Crown Jewel, and the Friendship that Helped End the Cold War is part memoir, part spy story about a CIA operative, Paul Dillon, and a Russian spy he handled. That spy, Dmitri Polyakov, was possibly the most important GRU agent ever "turned" by the CIA and the author is the daughter of the CIA operative who worked with him. Eva Dillon weaves her personal story in with the information she learned through personal interviews and extensive reading. But, the focus of the book is on the relationship mentioned in the subtitle: the people the two spies interacted with, the methods of their spycraft, the occasional betrayals and deaths of various spies, and what became of Paul Dillon and Dmitri Polyakov.

I was impressed with the readability of this particular work of nonfiction. Books about intelligence operations can be surprisingly dry or convoluted, but I never had any trouble at all discerning the relationships, remembering the real-life characters and distinguishing them from each other, following the use of various spying tools and methods, etc. In fact, the Cold War is a time period I tend to avoid because the little I've read has been too dry for me.

Not Spies in the Family. The story was told well and felt complete but left me wanting to read more about the Cold War era, particularly espionage memoirs of a similar nature. There's an extensive list of references in the back of the book and I may need to scratch down a few titles before I send my ARC on to Eldest (who is besotted with the Cold War era in the way I am with WWII). Kiddo has been begging me to read a biography of CIA Director William Casey that he loved, as well, and while I've been lukewarm about the subject matter and brushed him off for several years, I've moved the book to my bedroom TBR. My interest in Cold War spying has definitely been piqued.

Highly recommended - A well-written, easily digestible story of two spies, their families, the agencies in which they worked, and the methods they used. Really enjoyed this read and found it was easy to keep all the characters straight. I particularly found the communication methods and tools fascinating. And, I enjoyed reading about what it was like being the daughter of a spy, moving from post to post, while not aware of what her father's job entailed. I gave Spies in the Family 5 stars at Goodreads.

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