Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation

by Robert Littell

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. Martin finds himself in
pursuit of one of the world's most powerful, most dangerous
criminals, all the while drawing nearer to the truth about the
terrible incident that destroyed him.

Touching on the collapse of the Soviet Union, world economy,
Chechen rebels, Israel, Lebanon, the state of modern
intelligence-gathering, and the perils of beekeeping, LEGENDS
provides enough action for the most devoted espionage fan. It also
reflects seriously on the fragility of identity and the dangers of
its loss.


Reviewed by Colleen Quinn ( on December 30, 2010

Legends: A Novel of Dissimulation
by Robert Littell

  • Publication Date: April 25, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 014303703X
  • ISBN-13: 9780143037033