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

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

by Alan S. Cowell
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The Terminal Spy: A True Story of Espionage, Betrayal and Murder by Alan S. Cowell

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780767930987
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 08/05/2008
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
File size: 563 KB

About the Author

Alan S. Cowell was the London bureau chief of the New York Times when the events narrated in this book reached their climax. Previously, Cowell served as a correspondent for Reuters and the New York Times in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. He has been based in twelve capitals and reported the news from around ninety countries and territories. Cowell is married and has three children. He is now based in Paris. 

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The Terminal Spy: A True Story of Espionage, Betrayal and Murder 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
This is an incredibly boring book, all the more surprising because it purports to be about a "true story of Espionage, Betrayal, and Murder." The author goes into minute detail about Russians in London with an insufferably dry style that gives the reader cause to toss his Ambien prescription. Whereas I had looked forward to a tale of intrigue, the author kept going off on tangents that seemed to have no bearing on the reason he wrote the book. A readable version of the exciting events surrounding the murder of Alexander Litveninko is hopefully forthcoming from someone who can write with some interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DuctorCE More than 1 year ago
The Terminal Spy is an intrigue with a Russian theme where the unspeakable do horrid things to the unpronounceable. I tend to confuse my .skayas, with my .oviches, and by the time I have sorted those out I have lost the plot. Mr Cowell anticipated my, and perhaps others dilemma, and opens his book with Dramatis Personae. This introduces us to 40 principle characters. I respectfully suggest that the reader studies these three and a bit pages as it will greatly enhance comprehension of the remaining 430. Cowell's work is at once an important and rewarding example of detailed investigative reporting. Important because it reveals how a foreign (I was tempted to say hostile), country carried out a successful nuclear attack on London, Britain's capital city. Rewarding because it reads like a fiction spy thriller. It will come as no surprise to the reader to learn that Alan Cowell is an experienced and accomplished journalist and citizen of the world. He is 'at-home' in London Paris or New York, and has vast experience of the Middle East and Africa. The Terminal Spy is a dissection, in the minutest detail of the evidence pertaining to the calculated murder in broad daylight of Alexander Litvinenko at London on November 1st 2006. It is the manner of this murder and why, that makes this volume a page turner par excellence. No one has been brought before the courts for this crime, but by the end of the book there can be no doubt of the identity of the culprit and his accomplices. The book is very well written. It is never dull - which is quite an achievement when one considers the exposure espionage and intelligence gets these days. There are no loose-ends or innuendoes which in a book like this can be infuriating. The Terminal Spy is an extremely rewarding and enjoyable read, and I thoroughly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago