Thursday, July 09, 2015


Legends is a spy/detective novel by Robert Littell. The single quirk I don't like about this book is the skipping back and forth in time from one chapter to the next. Chapter 1 takes place in 1993, chapter 2 in 1997, chapter 3 in 1994, chapter 4 in 1997, then '97, '97, '87, '89... Other than that minor quibble, which took me some getting used to, I liked this book. The characters are interesting, the plot intriguing if convoluted, and the main character is a sympathetic figure. I'll read more by this author if I come across them.

from the back of the book:
Martin Odum is a one-time CIA field agent turned private detective in Brooklyn, struggling his way through a labyrinth of memories and past identities -“legends” in Agency parlance. But who is Martin Odum? Is he a creation of the Legend Committee at the CIA’s Langley headquarters? Is he suffering from multiple personality disorder, brainwashing, or simply exhaustion? Widely considered one of the true grand masters of American spy fiction, Robert Littell shifts focus from the broad Cold War canvas of his international bestseller The Company to the life of a single CIA operative caught in a contradictory “wilderness of mirrors” in which remembering the past and forgetting it are both deadly options.
Publishers Weekly concludes, "Wonderful writing and a great sense of fun make this another winner." Kirkus has a mixed review. The NYT calls it an "ambitious, curious novel" while saying, "If all this sounds like you've heard it before, you have. There's not much in this odd book that isn't done elsewhere, often by Littell himself".


  1. Sounds like a bit of work to read and spy novels aren't my favorites. Still a private detective in Brooklyn rings my bells. I guess I'll give this one a maybe for me.


    1. Some people don't have trouble with the switching back & forth in time, but I sometimes have trouble keeping up. I caught on pretty fast with this one, though.

  2. I've never read this book, but there is a weekly show that was on TNT last year called Legends. It was based on Littell's book, and stars Sean Bean as Martin Odum. I understand it has been renewed for a second season.

    As in the book you described, the plot switches back and forth in the show, too. Sometimes it's harder to know where you are, because there is no real way to discern past from present. Some directors use color, some use other devices, like dates at the beginning of the scenes, but that is not the case in this show. I'm sure it wasn't as confusing in the book as it was in the show to keep up with what date or era we were in.

    What I enjoyed most about this show is it explains in detail what a legend is, and how all these legends fit into the scheme of things. Bean changes characters well, as he switches from one "legend" to the next. Occasionally he would get confused and slip up, as he did once when his legend stuttered all the time, and he spoke to his ex-wife using a stutter. It was a good show, so it might be a really good book, too. Glad you reviewed it.

    1. Sean Bean? I'm in! I'll look this up and see if it's available on DVD. We don't get cable, but I don't mind having Sean Bean DVDs on the shelf. Thx!