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.

Spies in the Family Book Cover Spies in the Family
Eva Dillon
History
Harper
May 9, 2017
384

In the summer of 1975, seventeen-year-old Eva Dillon was living in New Delhi with her family when her father was exposed as a CIA spy. Eva had long believed that her father was a U.S. State Department employee. She had no idea that he was handling the CIA’s highest-ranking double agent—Dmitri Fedorovich Polyakov—a Soviet general whose code name was TOPHAT. Dillon’s father and Polyakov had a close friendship that went back years, to their first meeting in Burma in the mid-1960s. At the height of the Cold War, the Russian offered the CIA an unfiltered view into the vault of Soviet intelligence. His collaboration helped ensure that tensions between the two nuclear superpowers did not escalate into a shooting war.

Spanning fifty years and three continents, Spies in the Family is a deeply researched account of two families on opposite sides of the lethal espionage campaigns of the Cold War, and two men whose devoted friendship lasted a lifetime, until the devastating final days of their lives. With impeccable insider access to both families as well as knowledgeable CIA and FBI officers, Dillon goes beyond the fog of secrecy to craft an unforgettable story of friendship and betrayal, double agents and clandestine lives, that challenges our notions of patriotism, exposing the commonality between peoples of opposing political economic systems.

Both a gripping tale of spy craft and a moving personal story, Spies in the Family is an invaluable and heart-rending work.

About the author

Jeff Grim

Jeff Grim has been a reader all of his life. He has had a particular interest in military history, any war at any time. His fascination with military history has brought him to an interest in historical fiction where the history comes alive with fictitious heroes and villains. Recently, Jeff has become interested in historical mysteries set in various time periods.

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