- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 25, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014303703X
- ISBN-13: 978-0143037033
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #938,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Legends Paperback – April 25, 2006
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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 Littells surprisingly cliché-ridden prose. But in exposing the tensions of Russias transition to capitalism, Littell approached the genre with creativity. He doesnt overlook the War on Terror, either; Al Qaeda gets a walk on. The plot line of Odums struggle to figure out his true identity struck some readers as a bit forcedbut 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.
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Top customer reviews
Frankly, this book was a disappointment. I have read a lot of thriller/espionage fiction, and this book would rate near the bottom of the stack. It was not compelling reading; I had to keep putting it down after 20-30 page chunks and force myself to return. As with the TV show, the action hops around between years and locations until the reader gradually just doesn't care anymore where or when the current chapter is taking place. When you reach the end, you'll realize some of the reason why they had to change the direction of the TV series. This was the first Robert Littell book I have read, and it will be the last. Back to Alan Furst et al.
Sewn throughout are interesting observations and insights:
"intelligence services are fatally flawed. They're self-tasking - they define the threats and then try to neutralize them."
"Didn't truth provide the spinal column in every legend?"
"You seem to have a knack for complicating simple things. In my book that beats simplifying complicated things."
In hindsight, I rushed my read a bit so encourage that you take it slow. Wrap yourself in the very idea of assuming a completely different personality. The intelligence and courage associated with this is undeniable even when it rings with irony given it is deception pure and simple. A slower read may also help with the book's structure whose timeline bounces around quite a bit.
As the plot requires that the hero shift back and forth between the different identities, the novel does a great job of exploring nothing less than what it means to be human, to have a given personality and set of attributes. Littell is convincing about his point that many of us have alternate identities: they may not always be as clearly defined under different names as the one that this spy-slash-detective has, but they exist in a small crowd within us, all the same.
And the hero is delightfully demure and unprepossessing in his principal identity, the "legend" he's choosing to remain within, at the end of the novel. He's a wonderful character to spend time with, not in the least bit self-aggrandizing or cocky.
The only reason I'm not giving this top-notch novel five stars is that it ends a little too abruptly for my taste. I prefer my novels to have denouements. It's also a bit too repetitive in small doses—things that get said over and over that the reader knows very well and doesn't need to be reminded about. But please don't let these cavils discourage you from reading Legends. It's worthy to be in the company of the early Littell classics, and that's saying a lot. I think Littell is every bit as brilliant as LeCarré. Very different, but at the same very high level for spy fiction.
The situations are novel and interesting, but It is hard for me to care about the personas or the other characters. They are all cardboard cut-outs. I haven't finished the book and probably won't.
Most recent customer reviews
I started watching the TV series and found it just as convaluted.Read more