Dead Drop

The True Story of Oleg Penkovsky and the Cold War’s Most Dangerous Operation

Titled Codename: HERO in the United States

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In August 1960, a Soviet colonel called Oleg Penkovsky tried to make contact with the West. His first attempt was to approach two American students in Moscow. He handed them a bulky envelope and pleaded with them to deliver it to the American embassy. Inside was an offer to work as a ‘soldier-warrior’ for the free world.

MI6 and the CIA ran Penkovsky jointly, in an operation that ran through the showdown over Berlin and the Cuban Missile Crisis. He provided crucial intelligence, including photographs of rocket manuals that helped Kennedy end the Cuba crisis and avert a war. Codenamed HERO, Penkovsky is widely seen as the most important spy of the Cold War, and the CIA-MI6 operation, run as the world stood on the brink of nuclear destruction, has never been bettered.

But how exactly did the Russians detect Penkovsky, and why did they let him continue his contact with his handlers for months afterwards? Could it be that the whole Cuban Missile Crisis was part of a Soviet deception operation—and has another betrayal hidden in plain sight all these years? Thrilling, evocative and hugely controversial, Dead Drop blows apart the myths surrounding one of the Cold War’s greatest spy operations.

Read an excerpt.

Read an interview about the writing of the book in The Moscow Times.


‘This excellent book contains lessons that are still valid in the 21st century’ – Oleg Gordievsky, Literary Review

‘The career of Oleg Penkovsky reads like a story by John le Carré… Duns’ denouement is both startling and convincing – a fitting climax to this irresistible real-life thriller’ – Francis Wheen, Mail on Sunday

‘Fantastic research and digging... a great read’ – Gordon Corera, author of MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service

‘A very thorough and entertaining account into one of the most important double agents during the Cold War. I found it impossible to put the book down’ – The Bridges Review: The Journal of the Australian Intelligence Corps

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