I finished reading this book, after a somewhat prolonged effort (which is not to suggest that it was boring, but rather detailed), a few minutes ago here in the wee hours of Saturday night/Sunday morning from my corner of the globe. It is an abridgment of a private diary that Guy Liddell kept during the Second World War, detailing on an almost daily basis via dictation to his secretary, his work in the counter-espionage realm.
This book is the first volume of a 2 volume set, and covers the period from August 28th, 1939 (when it was clear that war with Germany was probably days away) to September 30th, 1942. For any reader who is a devotee of espionage/espionage history, he/she will be enthralled with reflections and observations about ongoing espionage activities in Britain, Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, and in places as far afield as Lourenço Marques (Portuguese East Africa) and the Far East. But for the general or casual reader of history, there are titillating details of Liddell's relations with Anthony Blunt (later outed as a Soviet spy by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) and J.Edgar Hoover, whom Liddell met during the course of a trip he made to North America in June 1942.
One observation that Liddell made in a diary entry of September 28th, 1942 I found especially striking is the following: "Ivan Maisky [then Soviet ambassador to Britain] is still propaganding here about a Second Front. There is a certain irony in the present situation. Russia with the utmost cynicism signed the Russo-German pact and thereby precipitated a world war, doubtless on the assumption that the British Empire and Germany would fight themselves to a standstill when Russia would come down like a vulture and pick up the pieces. It is now Russia and Germany that are fighting themselves into a state of exhaustion while we are to a certain degree enjoying a welcome respite. This situation must be a source of considerable irritation to old Joe [Stalin], although in advocating a Second Front he fails to recognize that we are already fighting a war in the Middle East, in the Atlantic and by aerial bombardment of Germany, not to speak of supplying war materials to Russia and other theatres of war."
On the whole, I liked this book a lot. But I will take a pause before reading Volume 2.