On His Majesty's Secret Service, Sydney Reilly Codename St1
- Publish Date: 2002-12-01
- Binding: Paperback
- Author: Andrew Cook
Sidney Reilly was probably the greatest spy the world has ever known. He lived on his wits and thrived on danger, using women ruthlessly and killing where necessary--and unnecessary. A womaniser, he had four wives-- three marriages of which were bigamous-- and numerous mistresses from New York to the Ukraine. From the gentlemen's clubs of Edwardian England to the forbidding gates of the Kremlin itself, he influenced world history with coups of extraordinary magnitude that required skill- and audacity- rarely seen since. Like the fictional Bond he would later inspire, he would make navigating Soviet Russia as a British agent seem like a walk in the park.
After four years working for MI6 and being exposed by the Soviets for his role in the plot to overthrow Lenin, he mysteriously disappeared in Russia in 1925. By the 1930s the press had turned Reilly into a household name, dubbing him 'Master Spy'- the myth was cast. It was upon this myth and the first hand access to British intelligence records on Reilly that Ian Fleming (himself a secret service desk officer during the Second World War) was inspired to create James Bond.
Until now major questions have remained unanswered about Reilly. During his life Reilly laid an almost impenetrable fog of mystery and deception around his origins as he adopted and shed one identity after another. Those who entered this ruthlessly compartmentalised life knew only what Reilly himself had told them. Andrew Cook's startling biography- itself a detective story of epic proportions- cuts through the myths revealing for the first time Reilly's true identity, his precarious 'disappearance' in 1925, using new, independent and expert photographic analysis of the photographs of Reilly's corpse to ascertain their authenticity, and finally providing concrete proof that he was executed by the Russians in 1925. His most sensational discovery of all, however, is the identity of a close former colleague in MI6 circles whose collaboration with the Russians aided his entrapment.