Ken Philby was one of the infamous Cambridge Five, a group of young men who were recruited by the Soviets while at university during the 1930’s. Philby went on to work for the British Secret Intelligence Service MI6 where he flourished for decades and successfully sabotaged dozens of British operations.
Philby’s charm, intelligence, and genius for subterfuge were instrumental to his success as double agent, but his membership in the old boys club, who exclusively populated the British foreign, colonial, and intelligence services in the mid-20thC made him unquestionably trustworthy. Even in light of overwhelming evidence of Philby’s treachery, his colleagues stood behind him. It was just unthinkable that “one of us” could so ruthlessly betray his country.
Like Macintyre’s earlier books, A Spy Among Friends reads like fiction—colorful characters and locales and surprising plot twists. (For a fictionalized account, read John Le Care’s novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy which was inspired by the Philby case.)