Shawcross, a London Sunday Times correspondent uses Kadar essentially as the basis for an anti-Communist treatise, although the book contains valuable material about the pre-World War II Hungarian Party. By 1948 Communism, Shawcross thinks, was worse than Fascism, going downhill since the Red Army arrived along with the Muscovites of whom a "fat vulgar Jew," Zoltan Vas, was the first. About Kadar himself, an "anonymous apparatchik, a gray man in a gray suit," a quite detestable type whom no one dared befriend, Shawcross seems ambivalent yet sympathetic, alibiing his most flagrant Stalin-period crimes and subsequent lesser nastinesses. There are bits about his humility (Kadar was the bastard son of a kulak and a chambermaid), his dislike of airplanes, his chess-playing, his knowledge of the national temperament -- the image of a relatively decent fellow. Rakosi, "all things to all men" and Stalin's postwar head-of-state puppet, is the bad guy, along with "the fat vulgar Jew." However, Shawcross spares no details of Kadar's role in convincing his best friend Rajk to "confess" during the 1948 purges; Rajk was hanged, and Kadar continued to climb. He had spent the Depression infiltrating the Social Democrats, who themselves were collaborating with the local fascists. It's material like this -- despite a "this would never happen in England" tone and a clutter of cafe stories -- that makes this a useful and critical political biography.