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The Terminal Spy: A True Story of Espionage, Betrayal and Murder Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Abridged edition (Aug. 5 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0739370545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739370544
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 13 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,139,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Good content, bad style April 27 2009
By E. Cerne - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book does a good job of covering Litvinenko's life and a good job of covering recent Russian politics. The drawback is the journalistic style of the book. There is poor use of foreshadowing, much repitition, and quite a bit of time spent on the author. Still worth reading.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Too choppy Nov. 3 2008
By Book lover -Philadelphia - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The story of (former KGB agent) Litvinenko's poisoning (in London) via a rare radioactive element should be fascinating. Unfortunately, Mr. Cowell has chosen to tell the tale in fits and starts, going from character to character and back and forth in time. It just doesn't flow, which is a shame since this (almost) unique event in spying is intrinsically interesting, had a huge impact on Britain's relations with Russia, caused a panic in London as the radioactivity was traced and caused several spy services to rethink their procedures. In addition, while Mr. Cowell has clearly done his research and provides details on the characters - including the murderer - he doesn't make them come alive so the book seems flat.

I have to say that this non-fiction effort was so poor that it makes me want to go back to really good fictional spies....
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Best of the books on this story Nov. 30 2008
By S. McGee - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko -- poisoned by polonium in a cup of a tea in an English hotel six years after he had sought political asylum there -- has been covered in at least four books of which I'm aware. This strikes me as the best of the bunch so far, although the definitive history of Putin's Russia has yet to be written. (Perhaps the reason for that can be found in some of the contents of the book itself, including the events leading up to Litvinenko's death.

Deprived of the classic ending to this true-life crime -- an arrest and trial of the individuals responsible -- Cowell overcompensates with a mass of detail about everything from the lives of Russian expatriates in London to the history of polonium and other radioactive poisons. Sometimes these digressions work; on other occasions they distract. (Does the side story about the photographer who snapped the picture of Litvinenko really warrant more than two or three sentences? I suspect not.) But Cowell does a far better job of weaving together those elements that are necessary for a reader to understand why the Putin regime might have wanted Litvinenko dead. On the surface, it isn't that simple to understand; he was obviously a maverick and not taken very seriously by most people with whom he came in contact. Journalist Anna Politkovskaya, for instance, was a far more formidable opponent: probably why she was murdered only months before Litvinenko. Cowell suggests that once Litvinenko began to draw attention to financial shenanigans of Kremlin officials, his fate was sealed; that, he argues, may be the Achilles heel of the regime.

Perhaps it is because so many questions loom unanswered that Cowell has had to struggle sometimes with the material at his disposal, drawing red herrings across the path (such as the equally questionable character of Mario Scaramella) and adopting an almost Gothic tone to his descriptions of the very prosaid London landscape. The florid tone can become wearing, particularly when Cowell uses, for the 37th time, the phrase "the day Alexander Litvinenko began to die".

Despite these flaws, I've given this book four stars for its solid attempt to tackle a subject that so far has been the domain of less rigorous researchers or writers with an axe to grind. It's to be hoped that the effort to differentiate fact from hypberbole is continued in other books.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A frightening real life thriller Aug. 11 2008
By John E. Drury - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a page turner, a "can't put down" thriller of the London murder of Alexander Litvinenko on November 1, 2006. Thoroughly researched, carefully thought through, all its nuances and angles and dark pockets are explored and analysed leaving the reader satisfied but wide awake at night suffering from the heebie jeebies.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An interesting tale but with a lot thrown in Oct. 26 2009
By James D. Crabtree - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Litvinenko, a former KGB officer and a Russian expat, died in 2006 of exposure to a rare radioactive element. Alan Cowell takes apart the life of Litvinenko and shows who he was, and who he was not, in order to figure out who killed him and why. The former KGB agent had been in the Russian FSB and blown the lid off corruption there and extralegal activities, he had served as an interrogator during the First Chechen War and was friends with one of the biggest of the post-Communist capitalists who looted Russia following the USSR's collapse. Add to this the fact that Litvinenko had apparently made an enemy of Vladimir Putin prior to his rise to power and the story becomes a murky one which takes time to pick apart and figure out.

A good book but not an easy read.