About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Literary Challenge of Finding the 6th Cambridge Spy

Image result for spy
Writing about the alleged 6th spy from Cambridge appears a never ending industry. As each of the Cambridge Five was identified there was speculation there were more spies from Cambridge.

In my last post I reviewed Trinity Six by Charles Cumming, an espionage thriller, which involved the 6th spy whose identity was being concealed by British Intelligence. Cumming attracted a good readership for a book on an alleged spy now 91 years of age.

Within the book Cumming mentions that former English Prime Minister Harold Wilson was theorized to be a Russian spy.

Other real life names alleged to the 6th spy include:

1.) Leo Long, a British Intelligence officer during WW II, whom Blunt asserted that he recruited;

2.) Ludwig Wittgenstein was named a spy by Kimberley
   Cornish in 1998;

3.) Guy Liddell lost the opportunity to head MI 5 because
 of fears he was spy; and,

4.) Cambridge academic, Andrew Gow, was mentioned by art critic, Andrew Sewell, in Sewell’s memoirs and even described as the spy master.

The literary hunt for the 6th spy is like the many purported killers of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. After reading Killing Pilgrim by Arlen Mattich which starts with the assassin being a Yugoslav intelligence office I looked at other alleged killers. There have been at least 8 other individuals asserted to be the killer of Palme.

With regard to the 6th spy I mentioned in my review that a new biography of Guy Burgess, Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess by Andrew Lownie, names English physicist Wilfrid Mann as the 6th spy.

One of the challenges for naming a 6th spy, whether for fiction or non-fiction, is that a 6th Cambridge spy was never identified in The Mitrokhin Archive by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin in the first volume of this massive work of information from the KGB prepared after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Having The Mitrokhin Archive on a bookshelf I looked at its reference on the Cambridge spies. Only five are identified. Indeed, the index refers to the Cambridge Five and the Magnificent Five.

Within the book each of the Five is discussed. There is no mention of a 6th spy.

Had there been a 6th spy why was “he”, no one has ever speculated on a “she”, not listed in the Archive? There was enormous pride in Russia at this great intelligence coup. To have added more names would have made an even greater intelligence feat. The absence of a 6th spy is an inconvenient fact for writers.

Cumming addresses the issue and explains why his 6th spy is not in The Mitrokhin Archive:

“Everyone thinks the entire history of Soviet espionage was contained in Mitrokhin.” Charlotte lit a cigarette and looked utterly content. “But there was a ton of stuff he didn’t get his hands on. Including this.”

It is one of the customary means of getting around official records. Simply state they are incomplete. The flaw with regard to the 6th spy is that the Cambridge spy story was a highlight of Soviet espionage and very well documented in the Archive. If there was a 6th spy he would have had an equally prominent role in the archive – even a greater role than the Five - for it would have been a best selling scoop to have revealed the 6th spy in the Archive. It would have meant his identity had been concealed for decades after the Cambridge Five had been revealed and the authors are revealing a great secret. At least Cumming did not ignore the problem.

Was there a 6th spy appears destined to a topic long into the future despite the Archive. We love to find new solutions to unsolved mysteries. There continue to be books about Jack the Ripper more than a century later with Australian teacher, Richard Patterson, the latest as he renews this fall his claim that poet Francis Thompson was the Ripper.
Cumming, Charles - (2015) - Trinity Six


  1. We may, indeed, never know if there was a sixth spy, Bill. And if there was, we may not ever find out who it was. And I think it's just that unknown aspect of it all - with may questions unanswered - that remains intriguing. People want things to make sense. We want our uncertainties resolved. Unanswered questions, such as this one, the identity of 'Jack the Ripper,' and so on, are, I think, interesting to us for just that reason: they are unanswered.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I do not believe there was a 6th spy but once there is a perception that there is an undiscovered answer the process feeds upon itself as each investigator searches for an answer that does not exist. I wonder if a writer could create an investigation that ultimately concludes the 6th spy is fiction.

  2. The whole subject of the Cambridge spyring has fascinated me for years, I'm one of those suckers for a new theory. But I think you are probably right, there is no missing spy...

  3. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I hope I let you down gently.

  4. I would tend more to believe there was no 6th spy, but who will ever know for sure? The Jack the Ripper questions never interested me at all, but my husband likes books about this topic, fiction and non-fiction.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I think you and I are too rational to be good conspiracy buffs. I was not convinced at the conspiracy museum in Dallas of a shooter on the grassy knoll.