Employing a lucid structure and writing with welcome clarity, Lang demonstrates his authority on the business of human intelligence, offering fascinating case studies and insights into the psychological motivations of the agents who are at the center of this dangerous business. His description of these psychological motives has a literary quality while also suggesting greater truths about human nature: “The nature of the hunger is unimportant to the clandestine collection team. It is the strength of the hunger that matters.” Recounting the case of Arnold Deutsch, a Soviet-era spy who had recruited students referred to as the “Cambridge Five” to pass on information to the Soviet Union but was later executed on Stalin’s orders, Lang writes, “His reward for creating an entirely new doctrine was a small caliber bullet to the back of his head.”
For the most part, this is an objectively written primer meant for a specialist audience, namely those involved in the human intelligence and espionage or who have a particular interest in the field. General audiences may find some sections bogged down in detail, and at some points Lang’s didactic tone may prove off-putting for a casual reader. Still, Lang’s chronicles and consideration of real historical figures and the tradecraft of espionage will likely sustain and reward the attention of anyone with serious curiosity about his subject.
Takeaway: A vital, succinct primer for anyone interested in understanding the art of human intelligence gathering and espionage.
Great for fans of: Darryl Pennington’s Human Intelligence Collection, Christopher Andrew’s The Secret World.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A