The first comprehensive history of the British Secret Service, compiled by an Cambridge scholar with a keen eye for colorful anecdotes. After complaining about ""dotty"" rules of secrecy that interfered with his research, Andrew unwinds a complex and often bizarre tale of international intrigue that speaks well for his own ability to ferret out elusive data. The British intelligence network evolved in response to foreign menace: German militarism in World Wars I and II, the specter of communist subversion during times of peace. To combat these threats, the aristocracy dispatched into espionage work some of its best and most eccentric men, including ""Dilly"" Knox, who liked to crack codes while soaking in a steamy tub; Somerset Maugham, and Mervin Minshall, the true-life prototype for James Bond. Andrew captures their exploits in gripping fashion, as well as recounting some of the Secret Service's more humorous triumphs, such as its use of a ""carrier pigeon corps"" during WW II to transmit vital information. He is less enthused about the postwar work of MI 5 (counterespionage) and MI 6 (espionage), which includes assassinations, coups, and extensive use of satellite reconnaissance. The days of trench-coated, cloak-and-dagger skullduggery and of pipe-smoking professors sent down from Oxford to outfox the enemy are probably gone forever. Andrew's book remains as a first-rate history and a superb memorial.