A Very Principled Boy: The Life of Duncan Lee, Red Spy and Cold Warrior

In This Review

A Very Principled Boy: The Life of Duncan Lee, Red Spy and Cold Warrior
By Mark A. Bradley
Basic Books, 2014
384 pp. $29.99

Duncan Lee was a descendant of the two Lee brothers who signed the Declaration of Independence, and of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general. He was the son of a devout Christian minister, a graduate of Yale, and a Rhodes scholar. He was a favorite of William Donovan, the founding director of the wartime Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the CIA), in which Lee rose to high military rank. And from 1942 to 1945, he spied for the Soviet Union. His American spymaster betrayed him to the FBI in 1945. Although the director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, became obsessed with snaring him, and despite Lee’s grilling before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1948, Lee was never indicted on any charges and lived out the rest of his life as a successful, albeit anxiety-ridden, lawyer. Bradley has produced a truly superb example of this genre, especially because he exposes in riveting fashion how the Soviet spy network worked and how it flummoxed the FBI, which was very slow to catch on.

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