London Review of Books editor Mary-Kay Wilmers as reveals her astonishing family history and shines new light on Russia from the October Revolution to the Cold War.

Mary-Kay Wilmers first began exploring the history of her remarkable family twenty years ago and made many surprising discoveries along the way. The result is The Eitingons: a book full of intrigue, assassinations, and secrets which exposes some of the darkest corners of the last century.

Leonid Eitingon was a KGB killer who dedicated his life to the Soviet regime. He was in China in the early 1920s, in Spain during the Civil War, and, crucially, in Mexico when Trotsky was assassinated. ‘As long as I live,’ Stalin had said, ‘not a hair of his head shall be touched.’ It did not work out like that.

Max Eitingon was a psychoanalyst: a colleague, friend and protégé of Freud’s. He was rich, secretive and – through his friendship with a famous Russian singer – implicated in the abduction of a white Russian general in Paris in 1937.

Motty Eitingon was a New York fur dealer whose connections with the Soviet Union made him the largest trader in the world. Imprisoned by the Bolsheviks, and questioned by the FBI in a state of Cold War paranoia: was Motty everybody’s friend or everybody’s enemy?

‘A riveting history of the twentieth century. It deals with war, displacement, murder, espionage, the Jewish Diaspora and psychoanalysis. It explains the murder of Trotsky, the growth of Freud’s teachings, the importance of the fur trade and the lure of the past. There is a lightness and a truthfulness in the narrative that makes you turn every page with pure fascination.’ Colm Toibin, Guardian Books of the Year

Mary-Kay Wilmers is editor of the London Review of Books.  In conversation with Clementine Cecil.