An avuncular account of a life spent uncovering deception for the CIA.



Memoir from a veteran of the arcane specialty of covert polygraph espionage interrogations.

A second-generation CIA officer, Trabue served from 1971 to 2011, directing both the covert-ops polygraph program and the CIA Polygraph School. His longevity seems attributable to his restrained persona. As he emphasizes, he is no James Bond, averring instead that "the threat of arrest and incarceration was real…the gentleman's game of espionage was really an extremely serious enterprise." Yet, he was drawn to covert examinations for the chance to travel abroad, satisfying the wanderlust remaining from his years as an "Agency Brat," noting, “a childhood filled with foreign travel made me attractive to Polygraph Section management.” Trabue's identification with the agency results in a circumspect account, even by genre standards. He steadfastly avoids identifying a single actual city or real-world case, relying on such obfuscations as “one of my favorite South American locations…a favorite for most visiting polygraph examiners.” He credits the previous generation of Cold War veterans for instilling in him rigorous respect for operational security, given that covert examination involves secretly bringing together the traveling examiner, the CIA case officer, the asset, and a 25-pound polygraph machine in safe houses in often hostile environments. Much of the text explores this basic challenge with anecdotal narratives, which become repetitive, although Trabue’s presentation of tradecraft, such as avoiding surveillance or utilizing hotels discreetly, feels authentic. Instead of historical narrative, the author focuses more on the psychological implications of his trade’s intricate probing of the human condition: "Whatever illegal activity people can do has been discussed during CIA polygraph tests." He emphasizes that his interrogations veered far from heavy-handed noir cliches: "The goal was always to snatch the information out of the examinee's back pocket without his knowledge through the use of persuasive and rational arguments."

An avuncular account of a life spent uncovering deception for the CIA.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-06504-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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