This is two things: the story of for-profit spying in general, and the specific story of the “Steele Dossier” that was compiled on Donald Trump prior to the 2016 election.
As for the the general story, it’s a look at how investigative journalists often turn into spies-for-hire; essentially, global private investigators. They form shadowy companies that are available for corporate espionage or political opposition research (“oppo”).
These are firms like:
It’s that last one that the book concentrates on for the specific story of the Steele Dossier. That firm was started by Glenn Simpson, a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal. The book goes into Simpson’s backstory, and keeps revisiting him over and over throughout.
(Side note: it’s weird that Black Cube made it to the subtitle, since the book doesn’t spend much time on that company. Maybe it just had the sexiest, most marketable name?)
The problem is that the book can’t really decide what it wants to be: the general story, or the specific story. As a result, it doesn’t do great on either of them.
There are a lot of people involved (also not helpful: a lot of them have confusing Russian names). To provide context, the book goes into a lot of their histories, which brings up a lot of random stories, which made me think the book was about that person, but then it would swing out and go back to the Steele Dossier again.
That isn’t to say it’s boring. But you eventually just have to let all the names kind of wash over you, because it’s hard to keep track.