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Intelligence: A Novel of the CIA

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  196 ratings  ·  51 reviews

A team of Intelligence agents try to prevent an impending terrorist attack, but are thwarted by bureaucratic hurdles in this darkly humorous debut written by a former CIA agent

Maddie James and her colleagues are terrorism experts working in a crumbling intelligence agency. They are certain another big terrorist attack is coming, but in a post-9/11 election year the
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 22nd 2010 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Imagine if James Bond lost his license to kill and had to go work at the company in Office Space. “Yeah, hi. James? I’m going to need you to pack up all your guns and spy thingamajigs and your martini shakers and move that all down to the basement. If you could do that, it’d be great. Thanks.”

According to the introduction on the audio version of this book, Susan Hasler worked for the CIA. for over twenty years, and she was on the team that wrote up the infamous warning paper about Bin Laden bein
Maddie James is a CIA intelligence analyst. She and her co-workers bury themselves in windowless rooms collating, analyzing, and interpreting government gleaned information. They spend long hours searching for who is planning the next terrorist attack and where it will happen. Terrorism is a serious topic but Hasler manages to include lots of humor through her characters and their interaction. They come are alive and ring true as does the craziness of political posturing. They aren’t merely type ...more
Nov 25, 2011 David rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fedgov employees
Susan Hasler is a very bitter ex-CIA employee. She lays out her agenda in the foreword of this novel: she felt the Bush Administration ignored intelligence, concocted their own story, and turned the CIA into political apparatchiks in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in order to engineer an unnecessary war with Iraq.

Whether you agree with her assessment or not, Intelligence is a sharp, sometimes funny book but one in which the author doesn't even try to be subtle about her axe-grinding. As a veteran
Author Susan Hasler spent 21 years working for the CIA and knows what it is like to toil in an intelligence agency. I was keen to read this book, hoping for a good thriller that also paints a realistic picture of what life is like at the nation's best-known spy agency. The writing in Intelligence is a bit self-consciously "cute", but I might have been able to tolerate that in an otherwise enjoyable book. However, Ms.Hasler was clearly presenting such an inaccurate picture of CIA employees that s ...more
As I was reading this debut novel, I kept thinking to myself: This author sure can write! The descriptions, the prose, and the dialogue were all beautifully written. I found myself laughing out loud at the numerous hilarious scenes. I read this book quickly and enjoyed it.

Normally I don't like books that break up the stream of thought into different first-person chapters, but it worked in this novel simply because the characters were all so well portrayed. They had very distinct personalities a
At first, this story wasn't grabbing me, but as it progressed, I became more ad more hooked into what was going on.
I hadn't realized that the book was supposed to be a satire, but I could see the dark comedy that was in it, along the lines of Catch 22 and M*A*S*H. But then I could see the not-so-humorous side of it, and the near-confession of, "Yes, there was a cover-up at the highest levels, but there was nothing we in the lower levels could do about it."

The only thing that the audiobook lacks
I really enjoyed Susan Hasler's book. Any close look at the cover that shows the eagle on the CIA seal with rabbit ears should give even the densest reader a clear indication that it is a riff--partly good natured and partly bitter.

The strength of the novel is not so much its plot. It is merely a fictional retelling of how intelligence can be distorted to advance a policy end.

For me what I really liked were her characters. I am not usually a fan of novels with character portraits but this was an
I heard about this book on NPR, and it sounded interesting. Susan Hasler worked as a counter-terrorism analyst at the CIA for over two decades, and the NPR interview discussed some interesting topics like intelligence failures. So I requested the book from my local library and started it with some modestly high expectations. And while certain aspects of the book were illuminating and occasionally entertaining, Intelligence was a disappointment for me.

The basic story of Intelligence follows an an
Hasler's novel depicts a sub culture of CIA characters inside the setting of Washington DC CIA Think Tank work environment. There is something to be gleaned from her days as an analyst during the Cold War period compared to today's war on terror. The book was vetted before publication to ensure that no secrets were given away as a book of fiction relevant to today's Homeland Security efforts with secret information gathering and dissemination. Hasler's novel compares well with other writers who ...more
10 hrs and 27 mins

Narrated by Susan Hasler (introduction) , Joe Barrett , Rachel Butera , Catlin Davies , Terry Donnolly , Peter Ganim , L J Ganser , Gayle Hendrix , Bryan Kennedy , Ken Kliban

Publisher's Summary

A team of intelligence agents tries to prevent an impending terrorist attack, but is thwarted by bureaucratic hurdles in this darkly humorous debut by former CIA agent Susan Hasler.
Maddie James and her colleagues are terrorism experts working in a crumbling intelligence agency. They are c
Janice Lierz
It’s fascinating to read an insider’s view of the CIA. Our protagonist, Maddie, is strong and sassy, toiling to stop another “intelligence” failure. Her team is smart and quirky. They all seem to have their work cut out for them. But the voice I loved the most was that of the terrorist’s. Spooky! I loved this story—and the writing was excellent: fast-paced, funny, and mocking. A good read.
Bill Mutch
It's rather refreshing to find a novel in this genre from the perspective of a woman. The author's biography makes the narrative ring true. In places it's wickedly funny. In others it's kind of heart rending. Many readers will relate to the way those patriots in the tunnels react to the politics of their bureaucracy.
Rick Edwards
A good read, with passages of brilliant humor. CIA employees can't do much with memoirs, but this novel gives you a pretty good feel for what one imagines to be the bureaucratic lunacy that makes the emergence of helpful intelligence almost a miracle. Hasler worked there for 21 years. She offers the reader a jaundiced perspective on the bureaucracy combined with believable and often hilarious characterizations. There would seem to be great variety among those mining for useful nuggets in the cav ...more
Winifred Morris
A must read! Read it for the humor, the tight writing, the subtle romances, and the many fully-realized characters. Read it because the way you see government intelligence and US foreign policy will never be the same.
I found this book on a display at the library. It sounded interesting, and it was. Written by a former CIA insider, I trust the authenticity of the situation, methods, and attitudes of the characters who work in the anti-terrorist arm of the CIA. The dialog is crisp and witty. Eight years later, the agents are all still stunned and feeling guilty about not being able to prevent the attacks of 9/11, and are desperate to correctly interpret the "intelligence" data pouring in. Their frustration at ...more
Wasn't sure I was going to keep reading at first but before I knew it I was drawn in by Maddie, Doc, Vivian, Fran and Vernon. But the character that affected me most was 'a voice with many names'.

The race against time to figure out the terrorists target plays out against Maddie and her co-workers having to fight those above them every inch of the way as Maddie's theory doesn't conform with what the policymakers want and that is war with Iran.

'A voice with many names' chapters are chilling in the
This novel has been billed as a thriller, but that's not strictly true. It lacks the cloak-and-dagger dash around the world that most in the genre display. Instead, the book is a very comical whirl through the minds of frustrated CIA analysts in the wake of 9/11. I'm sure it will be compared to Joseph Heller, but to be perfectly honest I enjoyed this book a lot more than Catch-22.
Never fear-- the book has plenty of plot, like a thriller would. But much of the intrigue comes from the often ridic
PROTAGONIST: Maddie James, counterterrorism expert
SETTING: Washington, DC
RATING: 4.75
WHY: Ever since 9/11, the US government has dedicated a lot of resources to reviewing information to thwart any future terrorist attacks. Maddie James is an expert analyst; when she finds strong evidence that another attack is imminent, no one wants to hear about it. The administration is more concerned about convincing the public that war in Iran is a good idea. Hasler has 21 years of CIA experien
Janice Lierz
What a story. An alien with a razor-sharp wit and a team of CIA oddballs—we’re back in the 60’s where the CIA decides to run drug tests on our extraterrestrial protagonist. The story is smart and funny, leaving me wondering how much of it was true. What if? I was fascinated and captivated. A good read!
Adam Shields
Full review at

Short review: It is a novel about CIA counter terrorism analysts by a CIA counter terrorism analyst that quit in 2005. It is well written and really carries the weight of finding the potential terrorist attacks.

The story format is multiple first person narrative and told in these short vignettes. It works well for giving good characterization and creating pressure. I thought the ending was a bit too neat, but other than that it was very goo
I really enjoyed reading this book. Although it is a fiction, but there is nothing fictitious about how organizations behave, whether it be government or large corporations. Reckless decisions are made by higher ups with zero accountability, and all the blame goes to those with sincere intentions. I wouldn't be surprised if there is more truth in this book than fiction. It is a very interesting read, and would love to read more from this author (no other major book out yet)
Mary Robinson
Liked this fast-paced CIA thriller written by a former agent. The author does have a political point of view as she has her team of counterterrorist analysts battling an administration that needs data interpreted a certain way to use as ammunition to justify a war. Main character is fast and funny Maddie James who is heartbroken and beaten up by 9/11 but still has some fight in her as she battles a government conspiracy that could be even worse.

Sue Harlan
Excellent look inside CIA intelligence gather and political policy-"Of course, if you think the invasion of Iraq was necessary, even wise, you'll hate this novel. But if you think it was a tragedy brought about by top-level arrogance and deceit, you'll probably savor Hasler's bitter comedy. It's a very funny book about a deeply unfunny slice of recent history. Read it and weep -- but you'll be laughing too."-
She couldn't write nonfiction, so she did the next best thing. She retired after almost 25 years at the agency as an alchemist. I love the job title. It takes a lot to work there... and Susan Hasler crafts a highly interesting novel that allows a crack into a window into that "place" I drive by daily. Now that there is such a turf war in the intelligence field, it makes you wonder what has happened in the years since her departure.
John  Sullivan
I enjoyed reading about the inside, from an insider. The author brings an everyday realization that the people who are the CIA are real people, like you or I. Although a novel, you can sense the conflict that the CIA had with the Bush administration and military intellegence. I think the story, at both levels, was clear. " you tell the leaders what they want to hear? or the objective data?"
Dave B.
This was a fun intelligent read (pun intended) that held my attention from beginning to end. The story appears very believable and the characters were fun. Reading this book was like watching Homeland with a lot of similarities that show the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding US national intelligence. The only difference here is that this appears to be a satire rather than a drama.
Liked this a lot. Hot, clever dialogue from wonderful characters. I think there is an old NPR podcast about this book that I will have to look for. I think she was trying to make a point writing this. Very dramatic yet very humorous. Read the descriptions around and see if you think the plot would be for you. Not a hardcore spy novel, but very insider-ish. Artfully done.
May 14, 2011 Sarah rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
This is good - clever and funny in parts. The writing is a little forced and the characters are not fully developed, I think. But, if you are not a supporter of the previous President, this is a good one to read - it backs up the notion that "things" were done, not because they were the right things to do, but because they were what the President (and administration) wanted to do...
Entertaining book. Supporters of the Iraq war will dislike the premise of the intelligence community's complicity in making a case for war. That aside, I am intrigued by the idea of CIA analysts slogging through and pouring over the sheer volume of data and trying to come up with plausible terrorist threats. Quite fascinating!
Dan Hodges
I kept laughing out loud and disturbing the house. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
It's hard to explain how an author can take an on-coming terrorist attack, counter-terrorism experts, and very troubled people and yet make you laugh and still stay respectful of her characters and the book's message. I think she succeeded.
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Susan Hasler grew up in rural Virginia surrounded by pets of all description. She earned degrees in Russian language and literature from the University of Virginia and the University of California, Berkeley. She spent 21 years at the Central Intelligence Agency working in various jobs from Soviet analyst to speechwriter for the Director of Central Intelligence. She worked in the Counterterrorism C ...more
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