Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies” as Want to Read:
Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  304 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
A fascinating and timely biography of J. Edgar Hoover from a Sibert Medalist.

"King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. . . . You better take it before your filthy, abnormal, fraudulent self is bared to the nation."
Dr. Martin Luther King received this demand in an anonymous letter in 1964. He believed that the letter was telling him to commit
Hardcover, 230 pages
Published April 10th 2012 by Candlewick (first published January 1st 2012)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Master of Deceit, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Master of Deceit

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Highly provocative, Aronson discusses how J. Edgar Hoover is both a hero and anti-hero. The book is actually best summed up in Aronson's last words "I hope Masters of Deceit shows that we must always question both the heroes we favor and the enemies we hate. We must remain openminded, even when the shadow of fear freezes our hearts." Learning about the 1940s through the present from the creation of the FBI, to Hoover's life as the head of the FBI (including his creation of databases before their ...more
Dec 20, 2012 Kristy rated it really liked it
A timely book:

1. For it's content and the fact that it's even more relevant today with Obama expanding Bush's legal defense of warrantless wiretapping, the current controversy over gun laws along with the question of when does the right of gun ownership infringe upon the rights of non-gun owners, government forced illegal detention, and other issues that cite the safety of the American public as the rationale for the complete disregard for human rights.

2. With the new Common Core State Standards
Edward Sullivan
Nov 30, 2011 Edward Sullivan rated it it was amazing
A probing, insightful examination of the life and career of a notorious and complicated individual. Aronson does an excellent job of separating the facts from the myths about Hoover. He astutely draws parallels between past and present events, and raises many provocative and challenging questions for readers to consider. Hoover emerges from this book as a tragic character, one whose insatiable craving for power and control led to corrupt and lawless acts undermining his accomplishments in crime ...more
Richie Partington
Dec 14, 2011 Richie Partington rated it it was amazing
Richie's Picks: MASTER OF DECEIT: J. EDGAR HOOVER AND AMERICA IN THE AGE OF LIES by Marc Aronson, Candlewick, April 2012, 240p., ISBN: 978-0-7636-5619-5

"Saturday night I was downtown,
Working for the FBI."
-- A. Clarke, R. Cook, R. Greenaway, "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress"

"FBI agents mastered the art of the 'black-bag job,' which meant breaking into the office of a person or organization to plant a microphone or to rifle through notebooks, diaries, and calendars. These undercover actions viola
Jul 15, 2012 Joan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone concerned about our society
I'll be shocked if this doesn't win the Siebert or the YALSA excellence in nonfiction award or both next January. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about history, although I'll admit that my focus does not tend to be American history. However, I learnt so much in this book about a substantial part of 20th century history! There is a bit of a focus almost inevitably, on the McCarthy era, but all of Hoover's life is examined. It is incredibly even handed in its aproach, noting things that lib ...more
Jan 11, 2013 bjneary rated it it was amazing
Aronson’s portrait of J. Edgar Hoover during his 40 year reign as the head of the FBI was riveting and to quote the author, “scary.” I didn’t really know much about Hoover and I was sickened by his tactics. Hoover blackmailed “everyone” by keeping secret files; he poisoned his staff with his directives and took advantage of his position whenever he felt the inclination. There was meticulous period research but this did not read like a history book but a superb thriller you can’t put down. This p ...more
Dec 17, 2012 Renee rated it liked it
J. Edgar Hoover,was a man who wanted to be powerful, perfect and at the top. Marc Aronson lays out Hoover’s twisted rise to eventually head the Federal Bureau of Investigation. J. Edgar knew how to manipulate people and the media and he used this skill to his advantage. One of Hoover’s first tasks was to bring down the notorious John Dillinger, except someone else managed to beat him to it, but that didn’t stop Hoover from making sure the Bureau ended up getting all the credit. After taking on g ...more
Penny Peck
Jul 05, 2012 Penny Peck rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-ya
In a complex book best-suited to high school students (and even adults!), Aronson describes how the FBI rose to power under J. Edgar Hoover. I think the book's focus on the bureau, and less on Hoover makes this best for the crime section and not the biography section of most libraries. I really appreciated the author's clear opinion that Hoover's ends did NOT justify his means, even if there were more Soviet spies than we would like to acknowledge. The author also refers the reader to specific f ...more
Jul 13, 2015 Jean rated it really liked it
Interesting and thought provoking. Some of the asides aimed at making it appealing to teenage readers are a tad annoying to the general reader, but excellent annotated endnotes point that general reader in the direction of further reading.
Sep 22, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it
I liked many things about this book, but had some reservations, which I describe here:

Erik Graff
Nov 30, 2016 Erik Graff rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: US citizens
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
The text of this book was written for intelligent high schoolers, the notes and critical apparatus for their teachers. Although a essentially a biography of the founder and head of the F.B.I. contemporary issues regarding security vs. liberty, issues particularly relevant since 9-11, are addressed throughout.

Unlike other biographies of Hoover that I've read, this one is not entirely negative, nor is the author attracted to the wilder speculations about his personal life. Instead, there is an occ
Nicola Mansfield
Reason for Reading: I know all about this history but I love the time period and was interested in how it would be rendered in a young adult book and whether it would show any bias, either way.

This is a book about very bad people. First, communists, a political group of mass murderers who have killed more of their own people than any single tyrant has killed in wars or holocausts in the entire history of the world. Second, a fanatic, a man who was an absolute fanatic and was given power, so much
Sep 22, 2013 Christina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I didn't think a book about J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI and the Cold War would interest me so much, but I found this book fascinating and hard to put down. Written for the high school level and up, it details in a fascinating, thoroughly researched and objective way the lives of Hoover and many peripheral historical figures throughout the 60+ years the book covers, how Hoover built the FBI into a huge organization, how he kept files on everyone remotely suspicious of various crimes or just disse ...more
Aug 02, 2012 Barbara rated it it was amazing
I consider myself something of a history buff, and have always enjoyed reading about famous figures in history. Since I grew up during the 1960s which part of this book covers, the name J. Edgar Hoover was one with which I was familiar. This book provides insight into this man who became so powerful and whose FBI also became so powerful that he could get away with keeping secret files, browbeating others, collecting information on those he feared, disliked, or suspected of harboring Communist sy ...more
Allizabeth Collins
Jan 25, 2012 Allizabeth Collins rated it really liked it

Master of Deceit is a detailed account of the life, times, and "crimes" of J. Edgar Hoover from the 1920's to the 1960's. Special attention is given to Hoover's creation and directing of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as his impact on the future of the United States.


High school U.S. History classes definitely left out a few facts about J. Edgar Hoover - at least mine did. What I already knew: Hoover created the FBI; what I didn't know: he ran the FBI - or
Oct 31, 2014 Courtney rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
Who was J. Edgar Hoover? The man who created the FBI and today's efficient crime fighting tactics? The man who made people feel safe and who cherished America? Or was he the man who broke the very laws that make up the country he loved? Better yet, was he the man who hated communism and Stalin so much, that he started to act like a radical himself?

Hoover served a long 40 year career "protecting" our country. Known for his detailed index cards that cataloged suspicious people and groups, Hoover a
Monica Edinger
Apr 07, 2012 Monica Edinger rated it it was amazing
I'm old enough to remember J. Edgar Hoover and also old enough to want to forget all about him. However, young people are not me and so with a sigh I dutifully opened up Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies --- and was immediately gobsmacked by the start of the prologue:
FACT: In November 1964, William Sullivan, an assistant director of the FBI, set out to blackmail Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into killing himself.

With that Aronson had me and kept me until the end. Be
Jun 03, 2012 Handd51 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up at TLA and finally opened it. It is fascinating - well researched, thoughtfully written and a spellbinding story. On the surface it is a biography of J. Edgar Hoover, but it is more a biography of the times he lived and influenced. Aronson does a great job of simplifyiing the changing political winds of the various eras he oversaw, from 1930 s Prohibition through the McCarthy era. He offers perspectives on both sides of the curtain, from Hoover's perspective and from outsid ...more
This was a fascinating slice of 20th century American history. It's central focus was on how those who keep secrets tend to deny truth - even if it's for the sake of security - and then can create a culture of lies. On the other hand, it also shows how Hoover & the FBI did protect against threats to American security. This is a well balanced account. In some places, it was very detailed, in others it seemed to move swiftly over events (like World War 2). It was best in it's analysis of what ...more
Jun 08, 2012 Gesse rated it really liked it
"Fear paralyzes; democracy requires us to take a breath to let the emotion subside, and to think."

A well-researched treatment of recent history. Aronson has a balanced perspective, illustrating the strengths and weaknesses of different ideologies and the struggles and successes of historical personalities. Sometimes he uses strange analogies (McCarthy is like a guy at a party who is too rude, Hoover is like a mad doctor, etc.) and he once in a while he over-explains (do teenagers really not know
Jun 09, 2012 SM rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya-nonfiction
A well researched and presented story of J. Edgar Hoover. This book can be used in some many ways by students in ELA and Social Studies classrooms. The opening provides a wonderful example of the use of text structure. Read the first 15 pages and see a great compare and contrast example for students working inside the common core standards across the country.
Students can create timelines on actions throughout the country and relate it to local situations. The use of visual literacy adds another
Mar 17, 2013 Anne-Marie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone!!
Recommended to Anne-Marie by: D Scheibs
This is all pretty SHOCKING news to me. DId anyone else know that the FBI broke into an English lesson and beat up twelve innocent Russian students?? Just because they were Russian during the Cold War era?? AND did anyone know that the FBI sent several anonymous death threats to Martin Luther King?

This organization is pretty messed up. It sounds more like the Gestapo or the KGB than the FBI. Hoover was completely deranged! As Dr. Scheiber said, "That man was a lunatic." He spent most of his life
Mar 19, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it
Chronicling the career of J. Edgar Hoover, this non-fiction book includes a description of the rise and fall of American Communism in both the US and Russia; the F.B.I. and it’s legal and illegal policies; and how Hoover engineered his image and that of the government agency he helmed for nearly 50 years. From gangsters to communists to integration, Aronson details the facts, exposes the lies and paints a picture of the changing beliefs and culture of 20th century America. The book is more about ...more
Apr 11, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Excellent and dynamic non-fiction book about J. Edgar Hoover, his rise to the top and the lengths that government goes in order to preserve order and suppress those that it deems against it.

Instead of the book being a straight tale of Hoover, Aronson deftly weaves in comparisons to the Patriot Act and waterboarding, which should help teens better related to America in the 1930s-1960s.

Aronson's book also includes a detailed account about how he researched for the book as well as notes, a bibliog
Aug 11, 2012 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya, nonfiction, audiobook
I must have blinked when this was taught in history class and am fascinated to learn more about J Edgar Hoover, other than that he created and was head of the FBI for years. He was a shady character- just like some of the ones he claims to have collected files of information on! Also very interesting to learn more about communism, the fear of the Cold War years, and really think about how our reaction to 9/11 mirrors the problems of that earlier time. Why is it that when we feel unsafe, it is ou ...more
Nov 26, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing
I think this book is brilliantly written. It opens with a provocative incident and is a page-turner. It provides the background for a young person (or someone of any age!) to sense the hysteria surrounding communism in the 20s through 50s and yet provides a balanced view of people and governmental agencies, including the FBI. It is absolutely timely, given our country's efforts today to limit immigration. If I were teaching history, I would make it assigned reading. Aronson additionally adds det ...more
I found this book as I was exploring the offerings from my local library via their Overdrive media. It was interesting but not a lot of detailed info covering a fairly long period of time, from 1900's to 1970's. As I was reading the epilogue at the end I discovered that it had primarily been written for the teen-age crowd. Now I understand the lack of depth. The author did provide many sources for continued exploration of the life of J. Edgar Hoover and a fairly large bibliography as well but as ...more
Master of Deceit by Marc Aronson is a non-fiction read about the first Directer of the FBI of the United States. This book was a challenging read for young readers because the author changes the tone quite frequently. For example, the first chapter was about John Edgar Hoover, but somehow the president of the United States was brought up in the middle of the book. Although the tone often shifted, there were many themes tied to this book. Personally, this wasn't my favourite book because it was h ...more
Nov 03, 2013 Lupe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens
I wasn't sure that I would like this book but I thoroughly enjoyed it! I would recommend this book to anyone who has strong opinions about terrorists and/or immigration in the new millennium. Aronson compares the anti-Communism movement to the anti-Muslim movement that has spread across the country since the attacks of 9/11. This book would be helpful to any student of history and/or the teachers of history. It is the perfect example of the quote: "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat ...more
David Platt
May 22, 2013 David Platt rated it it was amazing
Master of Deceit is an excellent book which belongs in every high school library.
Using the biography of FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover as his vehicle, Marc Aronson tells the story of America's struggle with fear of attack from within and without. He describes a delicate balancing act with public safety on one side and civil liberties on the other. Many of the villians in this story have a good side and each hero has his/her foibles. Sometimes Hoover is the villian and sometimes the hero. Ultimately,
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Sno-Isle Mock Printz: * Finalist: Master of Deceit 2 13 Nov 04, 2012 04:41PM  
  • Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship
  • The Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure
  • Superman Versus The Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate
  • His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg
  • We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March
  • Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives
  • The Giant and How He Humbugged America
  • Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95
  • The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity
  • A Black Hole Is Not a Hole
  • Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London
  • Their Skeletons Speak: Kennewick Man and the Paleoamerican World
  • Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines
  • Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust
  • The Fairy Ring
  • Black and white : the confrontation of Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene "Bull" Connor
  • First Girl Scout: The Life of Juliette Gordon Low
  • The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery
Aronson has won many awards for his books for young readers and has a doctorate in American history. His lectures cover educational topics such as mysteries and controversies in American history, teenagers and their reading, the literary passions of boys, and always leave audiences asking for more.
More about Marc Aronson...

Share This Book

“Whenever America faces threats, there will be those who offer us security – at a price. That price may be your privacy or the freedom of a classmate or the life of a leader.” 0 likes
“Today, Americans face intense terrorist threats and thus hard choices...” 0 likes
More quotes…