Book about my hero

Portrait of a Secret Agent who Knew Kim Philby

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Portrait of a Secret Agent who Knew Kim Philby
Tina Tamman
ISBN: 978-0-993022906

This is a book about belonging, loyalty and identity – the biography of a secret agent called Brian Giffey who wrongly believed that he was Welsh, but his mother was actually Canadian and his father German. Born illegitimate as Otto Chester Kurt Brian Petersen in London in 1887, he was brought up in Germany. On his return to Britain he obtained a degree from Oxford and, with the help of an unscrupulous lawyer, a military career became possible. Brian joined the Worcestershire Regiment in 1911. His intelligence career with MI6 started in 1928; he served in Tallinn, London and Baghdad. In 1944, however, he was mysteriously dismissed from the secret service, and in post-war years he represented Britain in Berlin on the denazification committee and, back in London, worked for the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain.

Brian was a specialist in Soviet affairs who knew the notorious Kim Philby. His biography helps us to understand how the Soviets used the information obtained for them by Philby. The book is also relevant today as Russia flexes its muscles. What happened in Crimea in 2014 is reminiscent of the annexation of Estonia in 1939-40 experienced first-hand by Brian.

The book is also an unusual and moving love story. How was it possible for this middle-aged womaniser to fall in love with an inexperienced and immature Estonian girl to whom he remained faithful for the rest of his life?