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The Terminal Spy: A True Story of Espionage,…
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The Terminal Spy: A True Story of Espionage, Betrayal and Murder

by Alan S. Cowell

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Extremely interesting! I thought that it would be more of a shady conspiracy book, but it turns out that quite a lot is known about the events which occurred. The book is easy to read, throws around a lot of big words every now and then in a lame attempt to appear more intellectual than it is, but in the end, it's a riveting book that all interested people should check out. ( )
1 vote ScribbleKey | Jan 10, 2014 |
5 stars: Super, couldn't put it down.

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From the back cover: Who was Alexander Litvinenko? What had happened in Russia since the end of the Cold War to make his life there untenable. And how did he really die? The life of Alexander Litvinenko provides a riveting narrative in its own right, culminating in an event that rang alarm bells among Western governments at the ease with which radioactive materials were deployed in a major Western capital to commit a unique crime. But it also evokes a wide range of other issues: Russia's lurch to authoritarianism, the return of the KGB to the Kremlin, the perils of a new cold war driven by Russia's oil riches and Vladimir Putin's thirst for power. Alan S. Cowell has written the definitive story of this assassination and of the profound international implications of this first act of nuclear terrorism. A masterful work of investigative reporting, "The Terminal Spy" offers unprecedented insight into one of the most chilling stories of our time.

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This book, the second on this case I've read, was a fabulous, frightening, detailed, fascinating read. It starts by following Litvinenko's tracks on the day he was poisoned (November 1, 2006) or as the book puts it "The day he began to die". It then starts at his formative years, slowly building up to November 2006 and beyond. The chapters on the actual murder, the effects of polonium, his 20 day torturous death, and the detective work tracing the polonium were engaging and unputdownable.

The book fingers Andrei Lugovoi, a former member of the KGB, as the one who provides the fatal dose. The evidence appeared compelling but of course, I am reading one point of view. The book makes it clear that the murder would have to be ordered by someone at the highest levels. Litvinenko himself fingered Putin (as Litvinenko also had shortly before lambasted Putin for the Anna Politkovskaya assassination). It is still unknown whether Putin had foreknowledge or whether the assassination was performed by someone else to please Putin.

The book is also exemplary as it gives a glimpse into present day Russia--which appears to be not too different from the Soviet Union. After skirting with a sort of democracy, it has slid back into authoritarian rule.

A book for my permanent collection. Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote PokPok | Oct 27, 2013 |
Could have been more interesting if the author had not danced all round the place. ( )
  wbwilburn5 | Jan 28, 2013 |
Based upon a 2006 actual account of Russia's President Pudin and how a spy, traitor was killed by an old adjective of poisioning. Death by lethal doses of Pollium that was given to the spy's and, traitors in the cold war as a harsh death. A good read if your interested in actual news accounts. Highly recommended, as a who done it mystery of intense investigations in London, Russia, and other Countries. ( )
  nutty7688 | Feb 16, 2009 |
The Terminal Spy: A True Story of Espionage, Betrayal, and Murder by Alan S. Cowell documents the events leading up to the radiological poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko two years ago in London's Millenium Hotel. The story was all over the international news at the time. Alan S. Cowell was the London Bureau Chief of the New York Times and covered the story, which eventually became this book.

This is the type of the book that I usually love. I've read quite a few accounts of various espionage services (CSIS, CIA, KGB, Mossad, MI6) as well as accounts of individuals caught up in international intrigue. This is a particular favourite topic of mine, and this book should have been a slam-dunk favourite. It wasn't.

It is not the subject, but Cowell's approach that is off-putting. Instead of allowing events and players to demonstrate the historic aspects of the poisoning, Cowell insists on reminding the reader that it is historic -- frequently. In addition to being repetitious, it leads me to conclude the exact opposite: that the incident wasn't so historic if the events and people can't be trusted to speak for themselves.

There are also many details included that distracted from the narrative. There is no need to include information such as the beverage consumed at an interview or the clothes an interviewee wore unless it is pertinent (it isn't). This is particularly frustrating because there are a lot of people to keep track of in this narrative, which is hard enough without extraneous information.

Most frustrating are Cowell's interjections as to what he imagines, with 20/20 hindsight, people are thinking or feeling at particular times in the timeline. These are things that Cowell has no way of knowing and these speculations don't offer any insight into the events in any case.

Terminal Spy is marketed as a "page-turning narrative," and it might have been were it not bogged down in details. If you can read around the details, there is interesting history here. I'll be passing on my copy to the military historian of the family to see what he can make of it.

See more of my reviews at Booklorn.com. ( )
  anysia | Oct 25, 2008 |
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Ch. 1, Broken Homes, Broken Empire: Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko was born on December 4, 1962, in a hospital in Voronezh, 300 miles south of Moscos, a university town where his father was a medical student specializing in pediatrics.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385523556, Hardcover)

In a page-turning narrative that reads like a thriller, an award-winning journalist exposes the troubling truth behind the world’s first act of nuclear terrorism.

On November 1, 2006, Alexander Litvinenko sipped tea in London’s Millennium Hotel. Hours later the Russian émigré and former intelligence officer, who was sharply critical of Russian president Vladimir Putin, fell ill and within days was rushed to the hospital. Fatally poisoned by a rare radioactive isotope slipped into his drink, Litvinenko issued a dramatic deathbed statement accusing Putin himself of engineering his murder. Alan S. Cowell, then London Bureau Chief of the New York Times, who covered the story from its inception, has written the definitive story of this assassination and of the profound international implications of this first act of nuclear terrorism.

Who was Alexander Litvinenko? What had happened in Russia since the end of the cold war to make his life there untenable and in severe jeopardy even in England, the country that had granted him asylum? And how did he really die? The life of Alexander Litvinenko provides a riveting narrative in its own right, culminating in an event that rang alarm bells among western governments at the ease with which radioactive materials were deployed in a major Western capital to commit a unique crime. But it also evokes a wide range of other issues: Russia's lurch to authoritarianism, the return of the KGB to the Kremlin, the perils of a new cold war driven by Russia's oil riches and Vladimir Putin's thirst for power.

Cowell provides a remarkable and detailed reconstruction both of how Litvinenko died and of the issues surrounding his murder. Drawing on exclusive reporting from Britain, Russia, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the United States, he traces in unprecedented detail the polonium trail leading from Russia's closed nuclear cities through Moscow and Hamburg to the Millenium Hotel in central London. He provides the most detailed step-by-step explanation of how and where polonium was found; how the assassins tried on several occasions to kill Litvinenko; and how they bungled a conspiracy that may have had more targets than Litvinenko himself. 

With a colorful cast that includes the tycoons, spies, and killers who surrounded Litvinenko in the roller-coaster Russia of the 1990s, as well as the émigrés who flocked to London in such numbers that the British capital earned the sobriquet “Londongrad,” this book lays out the events that allowed an accused killer to escape prosecution in a delicate diplomatic minuet that helped save face for the authorities in London and Moscow.

A masterful work of investigative reporting, The Terminal Spy offers unprecedented insight into one of the most chilling true stories of our time.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:21 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Fatally poisoned by a rare radioactive isotope slipped into his drink, Russian emigre Alexander Litvinenko issued a dramatic deathbed statement accusing Russian president Vladimir Putin himself of engineering his murder. Alan S. Cowell, then London Bureau Chief of the" New York Times," who covered the story from its inception, has written the definitive story of this assassination and of the profound international implications of this first act of nuclear terrorism.… (more)

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