Spies in the Family by Eva Dillon

Eva Dillon’s first book is a doozy – Spies in the Family: An American Spymaster, His Russian Crown Jewel, and the Friendship That Helped End the Cold War – it chronicles the professional lives of one of America’s greatest Russian assets and Dillon’s father Paul, who was in the CIA.

The Russian asset – Dmitri Polyakov – was a hero of the Soviet Union during World War II who became disenchanted with communism. He did not pass information to the Americans for money (he never wanted any payments), but as a way to get back at the corrupt leaders of the Soviet Union. He spied for the United States for almost two decades. As a result of his work, he helped the U.S. avoid a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union and provided a plethora of information on the inner workings of Soviet intelligence.

Paul Dillon – a career CIA agent who was Polyakov’s handler for a brief time – helped the U.S. navigate the intrigue of the Cold War. He and Polyakov enjoyed a strong bond that developed into deep respect. Of all Polyakov’s handlers, Paul was the most trusted.

Dillon masterfully tells the story of both men simultaneously as they rose in the ranks of the CIA and GRU (Soviet international intelligence). Both men were valued in their respective agencies. I particularly enjoyed reading about the interaction between Polyakov and Paul – they seemed to have a genuine liking for each other.

In the midst of telling their stories, Dillon intermingles other significant events involving espionage between the two countries – particularly the harm done to the CIA by former CIA agent Philip Agee, the glut of information on the MiG-25 fighter provided by Soviet pilot/defector Viktor Belenko, and the disaster that was CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames. Dillon superbly explains the ramifications of each of these events not only on the two countries, but the two men as well.

A well-documented and written account of the Cold War.

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