Two CIA spooks form a romantic bond while globe-hopping between trouble spots.
In this unusual memoir, a husband and wife alternate chapters in describing their careers and connection. Robert Baer (The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 2009, etc.) is well-known to espionage fans as the basis for George Clooney’s character in Syriana (2005). Dayna had a more secretive career. Initially, she performed background checks, but then, to her surprise, she was selected for the “shooter” course, which prepares the CIA’s little-known cohort of Protective Agents. Despite this potentially thrilling detour, Dayna emphasizes that “what I end up doing has nothing to do with banging down doors and firefights…The moment a gun comes out, the mission is compromised.” Meanwhile, Robert was posted to places like Tajikistan and Iraq, where he was “caught up in a plot by a handful of Iraqi generals to oust Saddam Hussein,” which led to his near-prosecution by the FBI. Yet he was admittedly addicted to the political intrigues of the Middle East, even as his first marriage was disintegrating. The early chapters have propulsive momentum, and the authors give a good sense of the improvisational nature of the CIA in the 1990s, as clandestine veterans like Robert tried to tie up the messy loose ends of the Cold War. Both Baers write affectingly of their experiences in Sarajevo, “a city radiant with sorrow,” where they met during a covert operation. Dayna’s initial impressions of Robert were decidedly negative, and their romance took some time to blossom. Unfortunately, once they wind up together, the narrative pace slackens (the love affair is only vaguely depicted). Eventually, they decided to leave the agency (Robert permanently, Dayna on a leave of absence) in order to build a family and pursue an international adoption in Pakistan, where the CIA is not highly regarded. Despite some chilling moments involving a Taliban-aligned judge, the book meanders toward a conclusion of domestic contentment.
An intermittently engaging but not entirely satisfying tale of love and espionage.