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The Spy Who Was Left Behind: Russia, the United States, and the True Story of the Betrayal and Assassination of a CIA Agent

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The shocking true story of international intrigue involving the 1993 murder of CIA officer Freddie Woodruff by KGB agents and the extensive cover-up that followed in Washington and in Moscow. On August 8, 1993, a single bullet to the head killed Freddie Woodruff, the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Within hours, police h The shocking true story of international intrigue involving the 1993 murder of CIA officer Freddie Woodruff by KGB agents and the extensive cover-up that followed in Washington and in Moscow. On August 8, 1993, a single bullet to the head killed Freddie Woodruff, the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Within hours, police had a suspect—a vodka-soaked village bumpkin named Anzor Sharmaidze. A tidy explanation quickly followed: It was a tragic accident. US diplomats hailed Georgia’s swift work, and both countries breathed a sigh of relief. Yet the bullet that killed Woodruff was never found and key witnesses have since retracted their testimony, saying they were beaten and forced to identify Sharmaidze. But if he didn’t do it, who did? Those who don’t buy the official explanation think the answer lies in the spy games that played out on Russia’s frontier following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Woodruff was an early actor in a dangerous drama. American spies were moving into newborn nations previously dominated by Soviet intelligence. Russia’s security apparatus, resentful and demoralized, was in turmoil, its nominal loyalty to a pro-Western course set by President Boris Yeltsin, shredded by hardline spooks and generals who viewed the Americans as a menace. At the time when Woodruff was stationed there, Georgia was a den of intrigue. It had a big Russian military base and was awash with former and not-so-former Soviet agents. Shortly before Woodruff was shot, veteran CIA officer Aldrich Ames—who would soon be unmasked as a KGB mole—visited him on agency business. In short order, Woodruff would be dead and Ames, in prison for life. Buckle up, because The Spy Who Was Left Behind reveals the full-throttle, little-known thrilling tale.


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The shocking true story of international intrigue involving the 1993 murder of CIA officer Freddie Woodruff by KGB agents and the extensive cover-up that followed in Washington and in Moscow. On August 8, 1993, a single bullet to the head killed Freddie Woodruff, the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Within hours, police h The shocking true story of international intrigue involving the 1993 murder of CIA officer Freddie Woodruff by KGB agents and the extensive cover-up that followed in Washington and in Moscow. On August 8, 1993, a single bullet to the head killed Freddie Woodruff, the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Within hours, police had a suspect—a vodka-soaked village bumpkin named Anzor Sharmaidze. A tidy explanation quickly followed: It was a tragic accident. US diplomats hailed Georgia’s swift work, and both countries breathed a sigh of relief. Yet the bullet that killed Woodruff was never found and key witnesses have since retracted their testimony, saying they were beaten and forced to identify Sharmaidze. But if he didn’t do it, who did? Those who don’t buy the official explanation think the answer lies in the spy games that played out on Russia’s frontier following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Woodruff was an early actor in a dangerous drama. American spies were moving into newborn nations previously dominated by Soviet intelligence. Russia’s security apparatus, resentful and demoralized, was in turmoil, its nominal loyalty to a pro-Western course set by President Boris Yeltsin, shredded by hardline spooks and generals who viewed the Americans as a menace. At the time when Woodruff was stationed there, Georgia was a den of intrigue. It had a big Russian military base and was awash with former and not-so-former Soviet agents. Shortly before Woodruff was shot, veteran CIA officer Aldrich Ames—who would soon be unmasked as a KGB mole—visited him on agency business. In short order, Woodruff would be dead and Ames, in prison for life. Buckle up, because The Spy Who Was Left Behind reveals the full-throttle, little-known thrilling tale.

30 review for The Spy Who Was Left Behind: Russia, the United States, and the True Story of the Betrayal and Assassination of a CIA Agent

  1. 5 out of 5

    The Bibliovert

    After reading, The Spy Who Was Left Behind, my brain felt like it was overloaded. It felt as if I had sat through an in-depth debriefing. There was so much information that was given, that I was left feeling overwhelmed and at times confused.  It felt as if I needed to be creating an outline as I read, to keep all of the information straight. For me, it was a struggle to get through. This book was just not for me. However, if you enjoy a very detailed, true crime read, this book is for you. The S After reading, The Spy Who Was Left Behind, my brain felt like it was overloaded. It felt as if I had sat through an in-depth debriefing. There was so much information that was given, that I was left feeling overwhelmed and at times confused.  It felt as if I needed to be creating an outline as I read, to keep all of the information straight. For me, it was a struggle to get through. This book was just not for me. However, if you enjoy a very detailed, true crime read, this book is for you. The Spy Who Was Left Behind is a book that's information-rich as the author did his homework and relayed everything to the reader as if no stone was left unturned. 

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    A case filled with lost and/or misleading witnesses, shoddy CSI, and political slants. The Spy Who Was Left Behind explores a fascinating case but may have needed an edit or two. 2.5 rounded up to 3. For the full review: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/11/07/th... For all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog A case filled with lost and/or misleading witnesses, shoddy CSI, and political slants. The Spy Who Was Left Behind explores a fascinating case but may have needed an edit or two. 2.5 rounded up to 3. For the full review: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/11/07/th... For all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog

  3. 4 out of 5

    Johannes

    I did this one on Audible and had to re-start several times throughout because the narrator kept lulling me to sleep. I would have had better luck had I purchased a hard copy to begin with because it's a thrilling investigation. I did this one on Audible and had to re-start several times throughout because the narrator kept lulling me to sleep. I would have had better luck had I purchased a hard copy to begin with because it's a thrilling investigation.

  4. 4 out of 5

    MH

    Situation I was not previously aware of. It would be interesting for someone who like Georgia/Russia or stories about justice. Only three stars because so many details using so many words. The author is a lawyer so I should have expected it, I suppose.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Fascinating look at espionage history and eastern vs western societies as an American lawyer attempts to figure out how an acquaintance of his has died in Post Soviet Georgia. Spies, criminals and courtrooms, investigations and questions everywhere, and much history of modern Georgia and the relationships with Russia and the USA. The approach of the book is quite detailed and methodical - perhaps too much.

  6. 5 out of 5

    James O'donoghue

    This is a weird book. It is a non-fiction noir that meticulously follows the trail of a highly intelligent and capable attorney on his crusade to find the truth behind the murder of a CIA agent in the early 90's. While the story flows well, there is a gaping plot hole that becomes more irksome as the story goes on: what is the motive of our protagonist? The fact that its a true story only makes it more puzzling. A Texas lawyer who grew up in the same town as a slain CIA officer takes it upon him This is a weird book. It is a non-fiction noir that meticulously follows the trail of a highly intelligent and capable attorney on his crusade to find the truth behind the murder of a CIA agent in the early 90's. While the story flows well, there is a gaping plot hole that becomes more irksome as the story goes on: what is the motive of our protagonist? The fact that its a true story only makes it more puzzling. A Texas lawyer who grew up in the same town as a slain CIA officer takes it upon himself to investigate the cover-up of a state sponsored murder in post-Soviet Georgia. The initial motive for his unsolicited investigation is to give the fallen agent's family some peace, then after engaging the dead agent's sister as a client, his motive changes to freeing the innocent man who was falsely imprisoned for the agent's murder. That objective, while laudable, is abandoned when he fails to ultimately free the prisoner, at which point his stated purpose becomes attaining some level of respect among the intelligence officers he encountered during the course of his investigation. It is later revised to protecting the fallen agent's legacy, though there is little reason to think anyone who cared about the dead agent didn't already know the gist of what happened. Now that the general public knows about the death of Fred Woodruff thanks to this book, we know he died in service of his country, but isn't that the same presumption afforded to every star placed on the memorial wall at Langley? And aren't they stars and not names for a reason? I ultimately felt this book had more to do with the psychology of Michael Pullara than the story of Fred Woodruff. He briefly mentions having spent 10 years investigating and uncovering lies about the death of his father during the Vietnam war which, while more relatable, demonstrates a penchant for engrossing himself in arcane puzzles for years on end. Of course there's nothing wrong with that as an eccentric pastime, but I hope his current project and next book show him using his talents to solve some of the worlds more pressing mysteries. I'd like to read the Pullara book on the 2 hour private meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki before that treasonous press conference in 2018.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ross Sidor

    Fascinating and detailed account of the murder of Tbilisi CIA Station Chief Freddie Woodruff in 1993, a surprisingly little known and unfortunate piece of Cold War espionage lore. The books, written by a lawyer, discusses in great the detail the official version of events and the documented holes and contradictions therein, while putting together a plausible and factual-based case (no outlandish or sensational conspiracy theories here) for what may have really happened. On a side note, I am stun Fascinating and detailed account of the murder of Tbilisi CIA Station Chief Freddie Woodruff in 1993, a surprisingly little known and unfortunate piece of Cold War espionage lore. The books, written by a lawyer, discusses in great the detail the official version of events and the documented holes and contradictions therein, while putting together a plausible and factual-based case (no outlandish or sensational conspiracy theories here) for what may have really happened. On a side note, I am stunned that this professionally written and informative book is receiving so many negative reviews because it "contains too much information" and "too many details." Personally, I would think information on the given topic would be a positive in any non-fiction book, but that's just me.

  8. 5 out of 5

    CHC94

    I love true crime stories. I find the psychology behind it interesting. That being said, I also love spy stories - James Bond, Jason Bourne, and the like. I remembered hearing about Aldrich Ames's arrest on the news in 1993, and didn't really pay attention until the reporter said the words "KGB spy". BAM! He had my full attention. But it was a quick news story, and was quickly eclipsed by other news of the day. I found this book on Audible, and considering all the issues we have with Russia now, I I love true crime stories. I find the psychology behind it interesting. That being said, I also love spy stories - James Bond, Jason Bourne, and the like. I remembered hearing about Aldrich Ames's arrest on the news in 1993, and didn't really pay attention until the reporter said the words "KGB spy". BAM! He had my full attention. But it was a quick news story, and was quickly eclipsed by other news of the day. I found this book on Audible, and considering all the issues we have with Russia now, I thought it would an interesting listen. I was not wrong. Freddie Woodruff was a CIA agent who was killed in Georgia, a country in the former Soviet Union. The Georgian authorities tied up the case quickly, arresting a young man who said he was drunk and firing a rifle; one of the shots hit Mr. Woodruff, killing him. When his body was returned to the United States, it wasn't in the condition expected. Michael Pullara takes the reader (or listener, in my case) on a wild ride through a dark underworld of a country that is in a political and economic shambles after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, to solve a case that people didn't want solved. There are a lot of characters in the story, many names to remember. I had to rewind the book quite a few times because I had to find out where a new name was introduced. This is a very extensively researched story, very well crafted, and full of suspense.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Martha Nash

    How does a small town American boy grow up to be a spy in an Eastern block country?! I kept asking myself this question as I read this captivating TRUE STORY of Freddie Woodruff, a spy for the CIA. Who betrayed him and why was the wrong man convicted of Freddie's murder. The quest of the author is truly an altruistic goal to free this man! The twists and turns as he navigates the political playing field of post Soviet Georgia is a real "who dun it!" You won't put it down!! How does a small town American boy grow up to be a spy in an Eastern block country?! I kept asking myself this question as I read this captivating TRUE STORY of Freddie Woodruff, a spy for the CIA. Who betrayed him and why was the wrong man convicted of Freddie's murder. The quest of the author is truly an altruistic goal to free this man! The twists and turns as he navigates the political playing field of post Soviet Georgia is a real "who dun it!" You won't put it down!!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    I was in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1993 - delivering donated medicines to regional hospitals from the US. I knew it was unstable, in the throes of lawless civil war and I remember hearing about this murder. So, this book was particularly gripping for me. It is a rather dry procedural investigation, but artfully told and peppered with some great historical details of still fairly recent events. It reminds me of a decent John LeCarre novel, only it's real. I was in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1993 - delivering donated medicines to regional hospitals from the US. I knew it was unstable, in the throes of lawless civil war and I remember hearing about this murder. So, this book was particularly gripping for me. It is a rather dry procedural investigation, but artfully told and peppered with some great historical details of still fairly recent events. It reminds me of a decent John LeCarre novel, only it's real.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    Very interesting story. The author takes a little time to delve into it, and in my opinion to reach his conclusion, but you can really see his investigative thought process. A good description of the complex and interweaving issues at play in the context of the Woodruff murder.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    write managed to develop expansively on a simple plot. opens up the individual thinking to reality. justice is built upon positions of power and vested interests. overall, a good book about how nations think and act.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jason Frazier

    Fascinating true crime story of an assassinated CIA agent and the cover up of his death.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rick Vickers

    Interesting spy story I don't know how much is actually true or just speculation but I enjoyed reading it Interesting spy story I don't know how much is actually true or just speculation but I enjoyed reading it

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    What an interesting story.

  16. 5 out of 5

    John Kerkhoff

    Good story, but some names make it tricky to follow at the beginning.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ken Hamner

    Outstanding book. Much different than anticipated, but great piece of history. Highly recommended.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jules Begg

    This is a detailed forensic analysis of a true story, neatly explores the author's experience from a moral, ethical, & legal perspective. This is a detailed forensic analysis of a true story, neatly explores the author's experience from a moral, ethical, & legal perspective.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Geoff Walling

    Thought that this really dragged in places.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Edward Young

    Fascinating story of a dogged attorney from Houston navigating the culture and corruption to find out who really murdered Fred Woodruff.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elissa Miller

    Fascinating - I'll definitely return to this one. Fascinating - I'll definitely return to this one.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shoshana Stubin

    I chose to read this book because I heard the author interviewed on the radio, and it sounded intriguing. And it really was!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ann

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alfredo González

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Craig

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jovany Agathe

  27. 4 out of 5

    VT

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hanneman

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Courtney

  30. 4 out of 5

    Will

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