A well-written, mostly engrossing tale of thwarted amateur treason underscoring the disturbing vulnerability of today’s...

THE SPY WHO COULDN'T SPELL

A DYSLEXIC TRAITOR, AN UNBREAKABLE CODE, AND THE FBI'S HUNT FOR AMERICA'S STOLEN SECRETS

The account of an eccentric would-be traitor who executed a large-scale heist of American military secrets.

In his debut book, Science staff writer Bhattacharjee focuses on cryptographic science and the doggedness of investigators involved in the improbable story of Brian Regan, an embittered Air Force security specialist who decided to pad his retirement by offering classified intelligence to Libya. Although an informant contacted the FBI, Regan had constructed a complex scheme using encrypted ciphers to hide his identity. As the author notes, “Lifting that veil of anonymity was going to be a daunting task.” Bhattacharjee reconstructs Regan’s suburban childhood to discern the roots for his moral lapse; he notes Regan, suffering from dyslexia, was mocked by peers for appearing simultaneously dense and clever, a lifelong pattern persisting through his one-man conspiracy. The author offers a compellingly seedy portrait of Regan, motivated to contemplate treason due to debt, career stagnation, and marital malaise. “As long as he could get away with it, espionage was a legitimate answer to his troubles,” the author concludes. Relying on extensive research and interviews, Bhattacharjee re-creates Regan’s brazen acquisition of bulk intelligence and cinematically documents his pursuit by Steven Carr, a driven FBI agent, with exciting tradecraft set pieces of surveillance and covert entries. But the narrative’s pace slackens halfway through, when Carr apprehends Regan in 2001 prior to an overseas trip to solicit Iraqi or Chinese spy agencies. The author focuses on the details of the government’s aggressive prosecution as well as Regan’s use of cryptography in his audacious fail-safe: he’d buried classified documents in various state parks. However, this negotiating tactic only hardened the government’s resolve, in keeping with the post–9/11 national mood; ultimately, Regan was convicted of attempted espionage and received a life sentence. In exchange for consideration for his family, Regan helped retrieve his caches, resulting in dark comedy when he was initially unable to decipher his own cryptographic clues.

A well-written, mostly engrossing tale of thwarted amateur treason underscoring the disturbing vulnerability of today’s intelligence systems.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59240-900-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: New American Library

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

NIGHT

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

Did you like this book?

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

more