Fascinating reading from an expert.



A best-selling author and former CIA operative chronicles his experiences as an assassin while offering chilling insight into the fine art of political murder.

When FBI agents told CNN national security affairs analyst Baer (The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, 2008, etc.) he was under investigation for the attempted murder of Saddam Hussein, he was bewildered. The CIA had indeed charged him with terminating Hussein, but now his country was turning against him for trying to do his job. With dry wit and intelligence, the author reviews his long career as a sometime-assassin (who ultimately never killed his targets) and provides running commentary about the do's and don’ts of political murder. He draws on his more than 25 years of experience as a CIA operative as well as the long, bloody history of assassination itself, titling each of the chapters after what he calls the 21 “laws” of killing powerful leaders. At the heart of the labyrinthine story are the author’s experiences with a man he calls Hajj Radwan, who had “truly mastered that eternal intimate dance between politics and murder.” Feared throughout the Middle East but especially in Lebanon, Radwan—who Baer speculates may have helped mastermind the 1988 downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland—worked with speed, secrecy, surprise and intimate knowledge of his victims. Perhaps even more importantly, he channeled his brutality on individuals rather than groups to “obtain well-defined and valid military objectives.” Baer contrasts Radwan’s tactics to the impersonal drone strikes—which often miss their marks, kill the innocent and produce more violence—currently employed by the United States. In the end, it is the skilled assassin, rather than the American technocrat, who doesn’t understand “the murky stew of clans and tribes that govern the ragged edges of the world,” that stands the better chance of eliminating evil.

Fascinating reading from an expert.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0399168574

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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