BookBrowse Reviews Legends by Robert Littell

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Legends

A Novel of Dissimulation

by Robert Littell

Legends by Robert Littell X
Legends by Robert Littell
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2005, 386 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2006, 400 pages

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A convincing spy story brimming with great characters.

From the book jacket: In Legends, Littell focuses on the life of one agent caught in a "wilderness of mirrors" where both remembering and forgetting his past are deadly options. Martin Odum is a CIA field agent turned private detective, struggling his way through a labyrinth of past identities--"legends" in CIA parlance. Is he really Martin Odum? Or is he Dante Pippen, an IRA explosives maven? Or Lincoln Dittmann, Civil War expert?

These men like different foods, speak different languages, have different skills. Is he suffering from multiple personality disorder, brainwashing, or simply exhaustion? Can Odum trust the CIA psychiatrist? Or Stella Kastner, a young Russian woman who engages him to find her brother-in-law so he can give her sister a divorce.  As Odum redeploys his dormant tradecraft skills to solve Stella's case, he travels the globe battling mortal danger and psychological disorientation.

Comment: The first Robert Littell novel I read was The Company, a vast but never sprawling 894 page novel covering 45 years of CIA history from its founding in 1947 (from the ashes of the OSS) up until 1995.  Legends is set on a smaller scale (running to a mere 380 something pages) in post-Cold War Russia.  Critical opinion is mixed, but generally positive - the negatives are that a few critics feel that Littell's prose is a little clichéd and some feel that Odum's search for his real identity is a little overdone.

"No respecter of the classical unities, Littell imbues his tale with the same split personality of its protagonist, veering from jocose banter to grim torture, but for readers prepared to follow his lead, he delivers a smart, fun, strange adventure in the legendary tradition of Odysseus, yet another wily trickster who boasts to his peril that he is "no man." - Booklist.

"Legends is a rich, funny, perverse, angry, haunting, supremely entertaining look at our world and our government." - The Washington Post.

This review is from the May 3, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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