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Cover image for Legends : a novel of dissimulation
Legends : a novel of dissimulation

Publication Information:
Woodstock, NY : Overlook Press, 2005.
Physical Description:
395 pages ; 24 cm
Private investigators -- New York (State) -- New York -- Fiction.
Struggling with disjointed memories about his past identities with the CIA, former field agent turned private detective Martin Odum wonders if he can trust his CIA psychiatrist and struggles to retain a hold on his sanity.


Call Number
Littell, R.

On Order



Robert Littell is the undisputed master of American spy fiction, hailed for his profound grasp of the world of international espionage. His previous novel, The Company, an international bestseller, was praised as "one of the best spy novels ever written" (Chicago Tribune). For his new novel, Legends, Littell focuses on the life of one great 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. Part Three Faces of Eve, part The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, and always pure Robert Littell, Legends--from unforgettable opening to astonishing ending--again proves Littell's unparalleled prowess as a seductive storyteller.

Author Notes

Robert Littell was born, raised, and educated in New York. A former Newsweek editor specializing in Soviet affairs, he left journalism in 1970 to write fiction full time. Connoisseurs of the spy novel have elevated Robert Littell to the genre's highest ranks, and Tom Clancy wrote that "if Robert Littell didn't invent the spy novel, he should have." He is the author of fifteen novels, including the New York Times bestseller The Company and Legends , the 2005 L.A. Times Book Award for Best Thriller/Mystery. He currently lives in France.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Littell's witty and suspenseful tale reads like a conglomeration of John le Carre's cynical spy vs. spy elements and Ross Thomas's whimsical and darkly humorous insider's view of international politics. It takes an agile narrator to adjust to the rapidly changing moods. Making the job even more daunting is a protagonist suffering from multiple personality disorder who can shift from wry, laid-back ex-secret agent-turned-private detective Martin Odum to ebullient Irish dynamiter Dante Pippin almost within the same sentence. Gardner, with nearly 500 audiobooks to his credit, handles the job smoothly and effortlessly. He also provides a polyglot panoply of credible accents, including Russian, Irish, Israeli, Palestinian and Asian. The complex and multilayered plot finds Odum hired to locate the husband of an Israeli woman to persuade him to agree to a divorce. He soon discovers that the globe-hopping search is taking him to people and places from his own perilous days in the spy game. This is particularly true when he slips back into past "legends," personas concocted for him by his CIA superiors. In dealing with the novel's character changes, flashbacks, misdirection and surprising revelations, clarity seems to be Gardner's main goal and he achieves it admirably, all the way to the satisfying finale. Simultaneous release with the Overlook hardcover (Reviews, May 23). (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

Choppy thriller about a man who isn't sure he ever was. A private eye living over a Chinese restaurant in Brooklyn, Martin Odum has led at least two other lives under different names, or "legends"--in identities the CIA created for him. Is he really these other men? Or is he bored Martin? A sinking feeling sets in as a character advises Martin, spelling out the obvious, that "all men and some women live with an assortment of legends that blur at the edges when they overlap." Waiting for the real Martin Odum to stand up, the confused operative receives a woman who entreats him to find Samat Ugor-Zhilov, a man who married and then abandoned her sister--the latter's Orthodox Jewish faith requiring that she be in her husband's presence when she divorces him. Despite warnings to refuse the case from a CIA director who looks like Fred Astaire, Odum combs Prague, London and a small village in Russia in search of Samat. Gathering pieces of Samat's identity, Odum realizes that the fugitive's misdeeds far exceed abandoning his spouse: both the Chechens and the CIA want to take him out for certain of his actions as Russia turned to democracy. Besides following Odum, best-selling Littell (The Company, 2001, etc.) also attends to the lives of Odum's alter egos: IRA bomb expert Dante Pippen, who shows terrorists how to plant bombs inside the carcass of a dead dog; and Civil War scholar Lincoln Dittmann, who crosses paths with a tall Saudi known as Osama bin Laden. A psychiatrist occasionally appears as well to help Odum repair the shattered life of a spy. Littell's sharp images, breathless chases and nasty double-crossers please as ever, but the splintered narrative suffers from a central identity crisis that blurs the focus and slows the pace. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Get this: rumpled Brooklyn PI Martin Odum is not sure who he really is, having lived so long and so convincingly under the assumed identities--legends--in his work for the CIA. Hired to find the missing Samat so that his abandoned Israeli wife can get a proper divorce, Odum tracks his man across the continents, stumbling over a plethora of shady dealings that make Eric Ambler's Dimitrios seem small-time: plastic explosives, opium, bioweapons, suspicious quantities of fertilizer, the relics of a Lithuanian saint. All of which may or may not connect to the past exploits of Martin's other selves: the brash Irish dynamiter Dante Pippen, who infiltrates Hizbullah, and the disaffected Civil War buff Lincoln Dittman, who penetrates al-Qaeda. Littell's sardonic style is reminiscent of the wry slouch-and-dagger intrigue of the late, great Ross Thomas, enthusiastically embellished with spy lore and geopolitical anecdote. 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. --David Wright Copyright 2005 Booklist