The Anatomy of a Spy

A History of Espionage and Betrayal

About The Book

For fans of both real spy dramas and fictional ones—both Ben Macintyre and John le Carré—the story of why spies spy.
Why do people put their lives at risk to collect intelligence? How do intelligence services ensure that the agents they recruit do their bidding and don't betray them? What makes the perfect spy? Drawing on interviews with active and former British, American, Russian, European, and Asian intelligence officers and agents, Michael Smith creates a layered portrait of why spies spy, what motivates them, and what makes them effective.

Love, sex, money, patriotism, risk, adventure, revenge, compulsion, doing the right thing— focusing on the motivations, The Anatomy of a Spy presents a wealth of spy stories, some previously unknown and some famous, from the very human angle of the agents themselves. The accounts of actual spying extend from ancient history to the present, and from running agents inside the Islamic State and al-Qaeda to the recent Russian active measures campaigns and operations to influence votes in the UK, European Union, and United States, penetrating as far as Trump Tower if not the White House.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Arcade (January 21, 2020)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781950691173

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Raves and Reviews

"A lot of people will do a lot of things for money and a lot of people will do things for spite or ego. There are also people who do things for an ideal, and wouldn’t take your money if you shoved it down their throats."—John le Carré, from Agent Running in the Field


“Tells the full riveting story of the breaking of the Japanese codes. An enthralling tale, the stuff of John le Carré or Robert Harris, but true.”—Daily Telegraph

“Smith writes a real-life thriller that unfolds like a classic spy story. An engrossing and exciting recounting of an obscure but important facet of World War II.”—Booklist


"Gripping. An outstanding book. The last word on the Final Solution."—Mail on Sunday

"A fascinating book. Smith writes well: coolly and unexaggeratedly, sensibly and authoritatively."—Alan Judd, Daily Telegraph

"‘Very effectively conveys the atmosphere of cumulative danger experienced by Jews in Germany under the Nazis."— The Times 

"In his splendid book, Smith has done a fine service in putting the full facts on record."—Chapman Pincher, Western Daily Press  

"One of the greatest untold stories of heroism and humanity from the Second World War."—Evening Mail 


"Well written and authoritatively sourced, Killer Elite is the first detailed account of a special operations unit that Smith regards as America’s most effective."— Sunday Telegraph

“An extensively researched and crisply written exposé . . . An important primer for anyone hoping to understand the successes and failures of U.S. intelligence in the last twenty-five years.” ?Publishers Weekly

"Smith lives up to his reputation as an expert in his field."—Bangkok Post

"We have the SAS. The Americans have ‘the Activity’, a top-secret special operations unit forming and re-forming itself under code-names such as Torn Victor. They are a shadowy body, but Michael Smith tells their story with style and authority." —Daily Telegraph

"The author writes compellingly and has clearly done his homework. It’s hard to put Killer Elite down once you start reading; it will educate, amaze and excite you, mainly because you’ve heard about most of these missions before – just not in this much detail."—Air Force News

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More books from this author: Michael Smith