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Legends Paperback – April 25, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014303703X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143037033
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #655,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As in The Company (2002), a long and serious chronicle of the CIA, Littell provides plenty of inside intelligence info in his superb new thriller, but he adds a decidedly comic spin. A female CIA executive looks frighteningly like Fred Astaire, while a former top agent works as a PI out of a former pool parlor above a nondescript Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn. The detective's name seems to be Martin Odum, but "Fred Astaire" calls him Dante, and he also goes by Lincoln Dittmann, the name of a Civil War enthusiast whose cartons of memorabilia sit unopened in Martin's office. Is Martin Odum himself a "legend"—a fake identity dreamed up in the dark imagination of the CIA? Because he needs the work, Martin agrees to help an old Russian KGB agent find his Israeli daughter's husband and persuade the man to give her a "get"—a divorce decree required by religious law. The husband has been pretending he's Jewish to cover up his link to a Russian criminal called the Oligarkh. As the bodies of his friends and clients begin to pile up, Odum searches for answers about not only the missing husband but also himself. Wonderful writing and a great sense of fun make this another winner.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

What does a spy novel look like after the end of the Cold War? Littell provides quite an answer. A former Newsweek reporter, he has produced an entertaining romp through post-Soviet Russia. Reviewers found plenty to quibble with, most notably Littell’s surprisingly cliché-ridden prose. But in exposing the tensions of Russia’s transition to capitalism, Littell approached the genre with creativity. He doesn’t overlook the War on Terror, either; Al Qaeda gets a walk on. The plot line of Odum’s struggle to figure out his true identity struck some readers as a bit forced—but others thought it added depth, bringing rich layers of meaning to what otherwise might have been a stock genre piece.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


More About the Author

Bestselling author Robert Littell has been ranked amongst John Le Carre and Graham Greene for his masterful spy fiction. A Newsweek journalist in a previous incarnation, Littell has been writing about the Soviet Union and Russians since his first novel, the espionage classic The Defection of A.J.Lewinter. Among his numerous critically acclaimed novels are The October Circle, Mother Russia, The Debriefing, The Sisters, The Revolutionist, The Once and Future Spy, An Agent in Place, The Visiting Professor, the New York Times bestselling The Company (adapted for a TNT mini-series), and Legends (winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Best Thriller of 2005) and For the Future of Israel, a book of conversations with Shimon Peres. Littell is an American who makes his home in France.

Customer Reviews

This is only the second book I've read by Littell.
mrliteral
This book is worth reading if you dont think about how it fits together to much.
clifford
Interesting lead character and good pacing made for a very enjoyable read.
Chris M.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader on April 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Robert Littell writes spy novels of clarity and appeal. By clarity I mean that, yes, everything is murky and underhanded and, no, nothing is what it seems, but he avoids that pointless "plot and counterplot" spy-writer fixation that makes me throw too many thrillers down in despair muttering, "who cares?" By appeal, Littell offers twisty, complex plots, interesting characters, and enough moral ambiguity to keep you happily hooked.

In the case of "Legends," Martin Udom if a former CIA field agent who has had so many identities (or legends, as they're called in the business) that he's not sure who he is. He thinks Udom is his real self-that is, the person he was before he joined the CIA and became many other people-but in his new job as an unsuccessful private detective, he is receiving internal and external flashes indicating that Martin Udom may in fact be a legend, and that his real identity may be as someone he thought was a legend. The man is in psychic crisis, but he takes on the case of a Russian woman who wants him to find her brother-in-law so he can grant her sister a divorce. This search will initiate a number of near misses with people and information he thinks he would like to forget. He's pulled to regions that featured in his spy-life which brings him closer to complete disorientation. Was he chosen by the CIA because he had multiple personalities, or because he had none at all?

Littell's "The Company" was a huge historical spy piece which looked at the positive and negative impact of CIA activity from the organization's inception. "Legends" narrows that focus to the effect on individuals, one in particular, while keeping up the expected pace. It is a thoughtful, exciting, and compelling read.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Martin Odum has learned to live with it. Sometimes he's Martin Odum, former CIA operative, currently a private detective in Brooklyn. But sometimes he's Dante Pippen, an Irishman trained in explosives by the IRA, and sometimes he's Lincoln Dittman, a Civil War expert so obsessed with his subject that he believes he was actually present at the Battle of Fredericksburg. All these personalities are legends, or cover stories, the CIA devised for him while on assignment in some of the world's most dangerous places. All these legends involve different backgrounds, talents, and character traits, and Martin has embodied these legends so successfully that he has developed an unusual kind of multiple personality disorder and can no longer tell which is his own original personality.

Currently he's working as a detective in Brooklyn, taking on cases that seem mundane compared to his former profession. Lost dogs and mahjongg debts, as he describes them. All that changes when he is hired to locate the husband of an Orthodox Jewish woman. The missing man has abandoned his wife, and her religion dictates that he must be located in order for a divorce to be granted. The woman's sister and father, who has a history with the KGB, hire Martin to find the vanished husband; his marital woes may be the least of his problems. The chase is on and the hunt leads Martin all over the world, from Israel to the Amish country, uncoincidentally bringing in some dangerous characters from Martin's former career.

In addition to his personality disorder, Martin suffers from amnesia and cannot remember the traumatic event that caused his own personality to diffract so severely. His therapist is sure that there was one such event until she mysteriously was warned off the case and ordered to forget her findings.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Lemuel Gulliver on May 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you love Le Carre, Alan Furst, Daniel Silva, and Tom Clancy but have never read a novel by Robert Littell, you are in for a serious treat - because Littell is a better, more versatile, more entertaining and intelligent author than any other writer working within the so-called espionage or thriller genre. The fact that his books are labeled "spy thrillers" at all is somewhat misleading - maybe the marketplace requires such labels, but in fact Littell's novels stand on a par with the best works being written right now, in any genre.

Littell's previous novel, The Company, was a mammoth, multigenerational saga of the CIA, basically starting with its creation out of the defunct OSS following World War II and taking readers right up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early nineties. It is without doubt one of the classics, among the top 5 novels published within the last twenty-five years.

Legends is an entirely different kind of book. Though it is no less intelligent, no less suspenseful (in fact, it is quite a bit more suspenseful), no less visionary than its predecessor, it's a novel that operates on a more personal, more focused level. There is a single main character (in The Company there were about two dozen), a man with a lost identity which is slowly revealed to him over the course of a manhunt/investigation he is privately conducting. He's a CIA agent who's retired - or has been retired - because of psychological trauma he suffered on the job which he can no longer remember. As an agent he assumed many false identities in his undercover work, now he's no longer sure which of the identities he remembers is the "real" one, and as he's slowly enveloped back into the shadow world of the CIA, he uncovers clues. Pretty soon, the CIA wants himn dead.
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