A former KGB operative offers a melodramatic and often portentous account of his ``spy'' activities while attached to the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C. Shvets arrived in Washington in 1985, supposedly as a correspondent for the Soviet news agency Tass. A graduate of the Yurlovo Intelligence Academy, he actually worked for the North American Department of the First Chief Directorate, a KGB division similar to the CIA. He's dismissive of KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov, noting wryly that ``the country's premiere spymaster'' was a bureaucrat who preferred paperwork to field work. He also deprecates other agents' contacts in Washington as bogus trysts designed to impress gullible superiors. This would be more convincing if Shvets didn't then proceed to trumpet his cultivation of ``Socrates,'' a former White House adviser in the Carter administration, whom he met after a secretive cocktail with the man's wife, ``Phyllis Barber.'' According to Shvets, Barber is a prominent anti-American, anti-Semitic journalist who would do anything to hurt the US government. Although Socrates was considered important enough to be spirited off to Moscow to provide ``intelligence reports,'' it's not clear what kind of crucial information a seemingly low-level official (Shvets never states his exact position) for a previous administration could provide. Still, Shvets proudly boasts that Socrates used Pentagon contacts to tip off the Soviets regarding US plans for the 1986 attack on Libya and to obtain inside information on the Iran-Contra hearings and ``key foreign policy issues.'' Most of this material was supposition they could have heard on CNN, but maybe the embassy doesn't get cable. Socrates, whose identity is never revealed, refused to confirm any of the book's details relating to his activities. He now lives in Moscow, while Shvets lives in Washington. Go figure. Insubstantial and often unsubstantiated. Shvets generates interest only when detailing the daily, tedious routines and machinations of undercover spy work.