cover image A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean

A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean

Roland Philipps. Norton, $28.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-393-60857-1

In this often exciting narrative, Philipps uses a trove of recently declassified files to trace the arc of Russian spy Donald Maclean’s life. While studying at Cambridge, Maclean became a supporter of communism and fatefully met Kim Philby, a fellow member of the Cambridge Five spy ring. Philby went on to become a high-ranking British intelligence officer, and he recruited Maclean as a Soviet agent before Maclean landed a job with the Foreign Office in 1935. The valuable information Maclean was to share included the truth about America’s nuclear capacity in 1948, as tensions flared over the division of Berlin, and secrets relating to America’s development of uranium for use in nuclear weapons. Maclean and his co-conspirators were eventually discovered, leading to his flight to Russia in 1951, where he lived until his death in 1983. Maclean’s motivations for betraying his country remain murky, despite Philipps’s speculation that its seeds lay in the oppressive private school he attended—Gresham’s School, in an isolated pocket of eastern England. Philipps believes that the required loyalty oaths to the school’s masters encouraged betrayals of one’s classmates and contributed to making Gresham’s “the perfect psychological training-ground for a nascent spy.” Even though Maclean remains a mysterious figure, this is likely to be considered the definitive biography. (May)