cover image Treason in the Blood

Treason in the Blood

Anthony Cave Brown. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $29.95 (677pp) ISBN 978-0-395-63119-5

Kim Philby, called by Brown ``quite possibly the greatest unhanged scoundrel in modern British history,'' and his father, St. John, are profiled in this dual biography. Philby pere (1885-1960), after a brilliant academic career, worked for a time in the Crown's political department in India and the Middle East, even though he despised British imperialism. He resigned from the service over financial and diplomatic irregularities in 1924. He converted to Islam and became a power in Arabia as an unofficial member of the Privy Council, but no hard evidence exists that he was a spy. Nor, despite the book's title, does Brown make that contention. Born in India, Harold Adrian Russell ``Kim'' Philby (1912-1987) was educated at Cambridge, where he made the acquaintance of several classmates who were to influence his life: Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt and Donald Maclean (John Cairncross, one of the Cambridge Five, is hardly mentioned in this account). Brown discusses Philby's homosexual relationships at Cambridge and his indoctrination into the Communist Party but otherwise scants these crucial years. He details Philby's luck in being cleared for the Secret Service; his work disrupting the German intelligence prior to D-Day; his postwar service as First Secretary at the British Embassy in Washington; his part in the Burgess-Maclean escape to Russia in 1951 and his exoneration by the government. Also recounted are Philby's time as a foreign correspondent in Beirut and his defection to Moscow in 1963. Spy buffs will find Brown's (Bodyguard of Lies) perspective on Philby's post-Cambridge years interesting. Photos not seen by PW. (Dec.)