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From the publisher
A revealing biography of Sidney Reilly, the early twentieth-century virtuoso of espionage
“Mr. Morris’s dogged research . . . lends impressive rigor to this portrait of an often-cryptic figure.”—Diane Cole, Wall Street Journal
Sidney Reilly (c. 1873–1925) is one of the most colorful and best-known spies of the twentieth century. Emerging from humble beginnings in southern Russia, Reilly was an inventive multilingual businessman and conman who enjoyed espionage as a sideline. By the early twentieth century he was working as an agent for Scotland Yard, spying on émigré communities in Paris and London, with occasional sorties to Germany, Russia, and the Far East. He spent World War I in the United States, brokering major arms deals for tsarist Russia, and then decided to become a professional spy, joining the ranks of MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence service. He came close to overthrowing the Bolshevik regime in Moscow before eventually being lured back to Russia and executed. Said to have been the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s iconic James Bond character, Reilly was simultaneously married to three or four women and had mistresses galore. Sifting through the reality and the myth of Reilly’s life, historian Benny Morris offers a fascinating portrait of one of the most intriguing figures from the golden age of spies.