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3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  994 Ratings  ·  111 Reviews
Martin Odum is a CIA field agent turned private detective, struggling his way through a labyrinth of past identities - "legends" in CIA parlance. Is he really Martin Odum? Or is he Dante Pippen, an IRA explosives maven? Or Lincoln Dittmann, Civil War expert? These men like different foods, speak different languages, have different skills. Is he suffering from multiple pers ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published April 25th 2006 by Penguin (Non-Classics) (first published 2005)
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Lukasz Pruski
Robert Littell's "Legends" is a pleasantly offbeat spy novel. It aspires to a degree of depth by attempting to investigate psychological effects of assuming different identities for different undercover assignments, but despite the pretentious subtitle "A novel of dissimulation", it does not quite work. The title word, 'legends', refers to fictitious life histories made up for an operative of a spy agency when preparing for a mission.

Martin Odum is a private detective in Brooklyn, who - in his e
Dec 13, 2008 Kinga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, I didn't read it, I listened to it. I can still hear the voice of the man, as he switched between accents and genders.
The author has definitely a handle on details.
His story is not drawn in pastels, but rather in pen with all the details clearly visible. It is the details themselves that sometimes make the narrative dry - on the other hand it is the details that make the book good. Go figure.
I never tought people can lie so much - is the first thought that jumps into my head when
Oct 03, 2014 Evelyn rated it really liked it
Martin Odum is a former CIA agent with some memory issues and a few former aliases--called legends in agency parlance--that continue to haunt him. Now out of the game and working as a private detective based in Brooklyn he's unable to recall large swathes of his adult life, and most of his childhood. He's not even sure if Martin Odum is his real name.

When he gets hired to find a husband who skipped out on his wife without giving her a 'get' (Jewish divorce decree), he unknowingly stirs up a horn
Jul 03, 2010 F.R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s interesting reading Robert Littell’s ‘Legends’ at this particular moment of time. The world news is full of those Russian spies arrested in the US, while the British papers claimed this weekend there are about 300 Russian spies in this country. (What they’re all doing here, I don’t know. The reports have had the odd effect though of making me think of every Russian person I’ve ever met in the UK and then trying to calculate how suspicious they are.) This is very much a modern cold war novel ...more
Jan 03, 2016 Nico rated it really liked it
"The Spy who lost his minds"

I admit what made me pick up this book it the TNT television series starring Sean Bean..

Surprise, surprise the book is entirely different from the series and the only common denominator seems to be the main characters' name and occupation...

That being said I find the book an engaging and an entertaining read, however if you expected a thriller a la "Jason Bourne" as Sean Bean's character in season one or a more classical spy story a la "John Le Carre" as in Sean Bean'
Aug 28, 2014 William rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book because I've been enjoying the television series, but this is nothing like what is on TV except for the title and the name of main character. In fact, there is so much repetition that a good editor could probably knock off a hundred pages from the novel without any loss. There are numerous typos and misspellings, unusual for a Penguin book. The one thing that WAS clever was that the main character has multiple personalities, thus allowing the author to be totally inconsiste ...more
Jan 29, 2016 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I gave "Legends," by Robert Littell, a marginal second star because the last third pulled together somewhat, but I found it to be a deeply flawed book.

Let's back up. "Legends" is the book that the recent TNT show with Sean Bean was based on. Yet other than a few names in the TV series that carry over from the book, there is almost NO similarity to either of the vastly different seasons of the TV series. Season one of the TV show was very "American" and season two was re-booted to be very "Europe
Ian Wood
Sep 19, 2014 Ian Wood rated it did not like it
This is the complete review as it appears at my blog dedicated to reading, writing (no 'rithmatic!), movies, & TV. Blog reviews often contain links which are not reproduced here, nor will updates or modifications to the blog review be replicated here. Graphic and children's reviews on the blog typically feature two or three images from the book's interior, which are not reproduced here.

Note that I don't really do stars. To me a book is either worth reading or it isn't. I can't rate it three-
Jan 27, 2015 Laurie rated it liked it
I picked this up because I watched the first season of the tv show and always like a good spy thriller. It didn't take long to realize the show was only extremely loosely based on the book. It's like they took only the concept of the character and select names, took away the specific plot and plopped him in a very current America instead of the 90's. Honestly, it sounds reasonable to me so they could make a tv show that's current. It plays better to today's audience to have had him be in Afghani ...more
Lorin Cary
Jun 05, 2012 Lorin Cary rated it liked it
Martin Odum is a retired CIA covert field operative who now works as a detective in Brooklyn, NY. When a new client asks him to track down a missing husband in Israel so her sister can get the paper which will allow her to divorce, the trek across countries is a voyage through his past as well. Odum seemingly suffers from multiple personality disorder. The various covers, legends, he has used in the past are so real that they permitted him to penetrate the Mafia and Hezbollah, for instance. But ...more
Christopher Culp
Apr 05, 2014 Christopher Culp rated it really liked it
One of Littell's better espionage novels, Legends is an interesting mix of a good old-fashioned spy novel with an analysis of the psychological impact of being under deep cover on the man. More than his other works, Legends crosses over into the territory normally dominated by Graham Greene and John le Carré. This is not Littell's bread-and-butter territory, but he makes the crossover effectively. The result is a very nice (albeit long and sometimes slow) book and a significant contribution to L ...more
Oct 02, 2012 Kaitlin rated it it was ok
A muddled, far-fetched spy story with an obligatory romance. I am a sucker for fiction dealing with disorders of the mind, so I was intrigued by the protagonist's multiple personalities and memory loss. However, the story (and its resolution) had little to do with that. Though at points entertaining, the story was tortuous and plot-based, so the convoluted plot couldn't hold it up.

This would be a good read for hard-core spy/FBI/conspiracy fans, but for the average reader, it's lacking.
Oct 26, 2007 Julie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Although the idea of a CIA agent developing Multiple Personality Disorder based on his different cover identities (i.e. "legends") is clever, I never got to the point where I really cared what was going to happen to the protagonist. Clever ending from a political standpoint but, nonetheless, I just never got caught up in the plot. Doesn't hold a candle to the Company.
Bill Scott-Kerr
Jul 28, 2013 Bill Scott-Kerr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compelling, smart, sophisticated and knowing, this book shows how and why Robert Littell is the genius of the American spy thriller. The Company is an impossible-to-beat classic of the genre but Legends admirably demonstrates just how many ways there are to skin the cat.
Indah Threez Lestari
735 - 2015

Cari bukunya karena sudah nonton serial TV-nya.

Well, kecewa sih, karena jalan ceritanya jauh. Mungkin cuma konsepnya yang diambil untuk bahan serial TV.

I like the TV version better.
Feb 22, 2017 Leah rated it liked it
This book was just too complicated for me. It could be I just didn't have the focus right now so I may come back to it later. I really wanted to know how it ended since I got 2/3 through it. Unfortunately I had to put it down.
Sep 26, 2015 Ana rated it liked it
Roman prati događaje između malog mjesta u Rusiji i Amerike i jednom privatnom istražitelju Martinu Odumu koji dobiva u zadatak pronaći pobjeglog supruga koji nije htio dati svojoj supruzi vjerski razvod i time joj onemogućio ponovnu udaju.. Ali Martin nije samo istražitelj, on je i bivši Cia-in obavještajac, jedan od najboljih agenata agencije nazvanih Legende. Legenda je zapravo izmišljeni identitet agenta koji operira izvan Sjedinjenih Država. CIA-ino osmišljavanje legendi ima svrhu kreiranja ...more
Nov 05, 2015 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-books
I picked up this book after watching the first series of the tv show Legends as it was based on this book. Turns out, aside from the main character, the story doesn't have a lot to do with the book's plot line aside from the main character's confusion at times over who he really is. The main character in the book is an ex CIA agent, Martin Odum. When undercover, agents immerse themselves in a legend, a new persona complete with background, past history and with things that can be checked by some ...more
Nov 04, 2014 Bradley rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2read2014
I quite enjoyed the TV series so decided the book would be an improvement as is so often the case.


Firstly there is barely any common ground between the book and the TV series.

A pet annoyance was the time Odum (the main character) spent in England where he seemed to be surrounded by Dick Van Dyke sound-alikes.

Before I get more sidetracked lets get back on track.

Martin Odum (may or may not be his real identity) is a spy capable of taking on deep cover personalities to such a degree he is see
Jul 26, 2007 Liz rated it it was amazing
Shelves: past-read
I absolutely loved this book.
To me it was the perfect mix of humor, action and psychology. I had just finished reading The Bourne Identity when I picked this one up and couldn't help but compare the two. They're both about CIA agents suffering from a type of memory loss, and both have people trying to kill them, however Martin is much more glib about it than Jason was.
I loved how Littell went into not just Martin Odum's head, but also jumped back and forth between present Martin, past Martin, L
Jim Leckband
Feb 20, 2012 Jim Leckband rated it really liked it
Everybody in "Legends" is not who they say they are. Spies, of course, but other "civilians" as well. Illegal immigrants, criminals, witness protection, etc. In fact, as the book goes on you are habituated to not take anyone's identity at face value (pun very much intended) since you find out later that it was a "legend".

A "legend" is the cover identity that a CIA spy adopts on a mission. It needs to be so ingrained with history and mannerisms that the spy doesn't have to think to stay in charac
Aug 01, 2011 Tony rated it it was amazing
Littell, Robert. LEGENDS. (2005). *****.
Mr. Littell writes excellent espionage novels. He is often considered to be the American LeCarre. In this story, he has outdone himself. Our protagonist is a retired spook who has opened up a detective agency in Brooklyn. His name is Martin Odum; or is it? In the course of his work for the CIA over the years, Martin has taken on several identities – referred to as legends in his group – and now is confused as to who he really is. Who is he really? Is he s
Erika L. Miller
Sep 11, 2014 Erika L. Miller rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
A detective story of a man, Martin Odum, former CIA agent who has lost himself in many layers of "legends", the identities created for an operative that is undercover. He is hired to search for a runaway husband who turns out to be a Russian gangster. Along the way, he finds himself being searched for by his former boss and mentor in the CIA.

A story that had, in my mind, potential based upon the TV series "Legends" starring Sean Bean. The story was slow and I put the book down for four months to
Jeff Swystun
Mar 23, 2014 Jeff Swystun rated it really liked it
This was one of the more fascinating spy novels I have read in some time. A "legend" is a covert agent's back story and the book's main character has more than one incredibly layered and convincing persona. Indeed one of them is compelling enough on its own to warrant reading the novel. The plot takes place largely in the 90's and involves Cold War, oligarch and militant Muslim threats. With many such tales it also illuminates and calls out the clashes that take place between rival intelligence ...more
Oct 17, 2014 Eyehavenofilter rated it really liked it
Martin doesn't know who he is, except that he is quite possibly a government agent, and he's done some very bad things. ( very bad things indeed!) He has other names in his head and other lives he has lived, other pasts that pop up in his conscious and subconscious, but he can't quite pin any of them down. Dies he work for the CIA or MI6, or something far more nefarious?
So when a woman comes to him for help in getting her sister a religious divorce which requires traveling to several foreign co
David Graham
Dec 03, 2013 David Graham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Loved the haunting, disturbing prologue, was intrigued by the early part, felt it lost a little steam just past the half-way point until the closing stretch (which I think was more down to me being so busy I was only getting to pick the book up for short chunks of time) and then loved the conclusion.

The book follows a private detective Martin Odum who is an ex-CIA operative who previously worked undercover, suffered in the field and now suffers from Multiple Personali
Katherine Clark
Feb 05, 2017 Katherine Clark rated it it was ok
When I started this book, I had high hopes. It was interesting and different, and I learned a lot about legends, though thinking about it now, I realize I didn't learn as much as I could have and wish I had. Anyway, a legend is the back story for spies, the biography of the fictional character that they are playing. Our protagonist opens the book uncertain who he actually is because his legends have tekn over his psyche making it unclear which one of the legends is actually him. Anyway, other st ...more
Jun 17, 2013 Carolin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ein verwirrender, sehr toll geschriebener Agententhriller, der den Leser bis zum Schluss zweifeln lässt, ob Martin Odum, ein New Yorker Privatdetektiv (oder vielleicht doch nicht?), nur eine Person ist oder nicht, ob er verrückt oder einfach wahnsinnig gerissen ist. Dabei reist er einmal um die ganze Welt, was mir, neben den sehr geschickt eingebauten Wiederholungen, am besten gefallen hat, denn alle Hintergrundinformationen über geschichtliche Abläufe, Orte und Sprachen (z. B. die Zeichen eines ...more
Jul 31, 2010 Ryun rated it really liked it
Robert Littell is often categorized as a writer of “literary spy fiction,” but don’t let that fool you. His latest novel, LEGENDS, which recently has been reprinted in trade paperback form, is another masterpiece, with the detail and realism of John le Carré (without the boredom) and the action and intrigue of Robert Ludlum (without the B-movie dialogue).

LEGENDS is the story of Martin Odum, a former CIA deep-cover operative now living as a private eye in Brooklyn. Martin isn’t quite himself thes
Oct 22, 2014 Sharon rated it liked it
In this spy novel, Littell introduces the reader to one main character, who drives the story. The character is a retired CIA agent. During his career, he had to assume many false identities (legends). After suffering psychological trauma during this undercover career, the agent can no longer recall his true identity. He leaves the CIA and begins a "retirement" career as a private investigator. While following clues on one case in particular, he begins to uncover clues that could lead him back to ...more
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An American author residing in France. He specializes in spy novels that often concern the CIA and the Soviet Union. He became a journalist and worked many years for Newsweek during the Cold War. He's also an amateur mountain climber and is the father of award-winning novelist Jonathan Littell.
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