cover image An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent

An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent

Owen Matthews. Bloomsbury, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-1-4088-5778-6

Former war correspondent Matthews (Stalin’s Children) examines Soviet spymaster Richard Sorge in this vivid biography. Born in 1895 in Baku, Russia, (now Azerbaijan) to a Russian mother and German father, Sorge fought for the German Imperial Army in WWI. After the war, he joined the German Communist Party and made his way to Moscow, where he was recruited by the Red Army’s intelligence agency. He was sent back to Germany to spy on the Nazi Party, and then worked undercover in Shanghai as a foreign newspaper correspondent. Arriving in Tokyo in 1933, he infiltrated Japan’s military and political elite, forming a spy ring of communist sympathizers. His insights into Japan were valued by the German ambassador to Tokyo, who made the spy privy to Nazi plans. Sorge gave Moscow early notice that Hitler would betray the 1939 nonaggression pact he signed with the Soviet Union, and sent messages warning that Germany would invade Russia. Stalin dismissed those missives, however, and Sorge, according to Matthews, spiraled into alcoholism and engaged in such risky behavior as sleeping with the German ambassador’s wife. Arrested by Japanese police in October 1941, Sorge confessed under torture and was hanged. His intelligence proved crucial in the Soviet victory at the Battle of Moscow, however. This exhaustive, crisply written portrait of “one of the greatest spies who ever lived” will fascinate espionage fans. [em](Dec.) [/em]