This seems to be a more or less official whitewash of that embarrassing Philby affair. ""Kim,"" you recall, was the son of an eccentric Ceylon planter raised by his mother and grandmother in the best Imperial tradition. At Cambridge he joined a depression-bred Communist Party cell and later, during the Spanish Civil War, he became a Russian spy within the headquarters of Franco himself, still later graduating into the World War II British secret service. . .still a Russian spy. After some two decades of double-agentry, still in the employ of British intelligence as well as the Observer and the Economist, he defected to Moscow. ""Perhaps the principal victim of his own career. . .a pawn as well as a player?"" Perhaps, but can his love affairs and his drinking be ascribed simply to the torment of having chosen ""Stalin's murderously repressive Russia in preference to Atlee's humane Britain""? The claim that Philby stole atomic secrets remains dubious (particularly in the light of the authors' uncritical acceptance of the Rosenbergs' guilt). But as head of British intelligence's liaison with its American counterparts from 1949 to 1951, he undoubtedly did pass on just about everything he saw. How did the chap manage it? Scale and McConville are oddly uninterested in, or ignorant of, Soviet courier networks and spy stratagems. The book does offer memorable descriptions of the Colonel Blimps in the British cloak-and-swagger business, the sodden Washington intelligence parties, and the Soviet defections that kept threatening to blow the covers of Philby and his accomplices, as well as Kim's incredible finessing of Parliamentary inquirers and MI-6, right down to the escape from his station in Lebanon in 1963. Kim never really made a mistake. An ""essentially ordinary man in an extraordinary situation""? Come, come.