THE CAMBRIDGE SPIES by Verne W. Newton

THE CAMBRIDGE SPIES

The Untold Story of Maclean, Philby, and Burgess in America

KIRKUS REVIEW

 It is remarkable that, as the publisher claims, no comprehensive assessment--utilizing information derived under the Freedom of Information Act--of the espionage activities in the US of British spies Maclean, Philby, and Burgess has appeared from an American source until the publication of this book. It is all the more remarkable, even for those who have followed the story closely, in that this account by Newton, a former State Department executive, calls for a considerable revision in our understanding of the period following WW II. For more than four years, Newton reports, Donald Maclean, regarded as one of the stars of the British Foreign Office, was at the center of Anglo-American efforts to coordinate opposition to Stalin. At critical moments--during the period when the Soviet Union was acting with almost inexplicable boldness in Eastern Europe--he was thus in a position to assure Stalin that the US had virtually no atomic bombs in its arsenal. During the Korean War, he passed on the information that the US had taken the decision not to use atomic weapons except in the most extreme circumstances-- information that could have been critical in China's decision to intervene. By comparison, the damage done by Philby and Burgess was much less important. Nobody emerges well from this narrative: as Newton notes, in the cover-up the British withheld information from the Americans, the CIA from the FBI, the FBI from the State Department, and the Atomic Energy Commission from all the others and from Congress as well. We are inevitably left with questions that may never be answered--for example, why the Soviets allowed Burgess, a drunken, indiscreet, promiscuous homosexual, to blow Philby's cover--but this account provides us with the fullest and most perceptive analysis of an important phase in Soviet espionage. (Eight pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-8191-8059-9
Page count: 464pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1991