Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Life Undercover: The explosive first-hand account of a CIA agent hunting the world’s most dangerous terrorists” as Want to Read:
Life Undercover: The explosive first-hand account of a CIA agent hunting the world’s most dangerous terrorists
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Life Undercover: The explosive first-hand account of a CIA agent hunting the world’s most dangerous terrorists

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  5,377 ratings  ·  648 reviews
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 17th 2019 by Ebury Press (first published October 15th 2019)
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 Life Undercover, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Woman Reading I didn't question her honesty while reading her memoir. But once I finished it and then googled her, I do suspect her truthfulness. My review has more…moreI didn't question her honesty while reading her memoir. But once I finished it and then googled her, I do suspect her truthfulness. My review has more details - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show....(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,377 ratings  ·  648 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Life Undercover: The explosive first-hand account of a CIA agent hunting the world’s most dangerous terrorists
Victoria
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
About 30% related to the CIA, 70% self-reflection, personal history and point-of-view. I understand that much of what she worked on is classified, but I was hoping for more cloak and dagger, fewer intimate details of her life. The little bits she does share about the tradecraft were fascinating, but they were few and far between which made for rather a dull read.

I listened to this book read by the author and her deadly droning delivery grated to no end, but I persevered because this was a couple
...more
Tammy
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More than likely this memoir will be a nonfiction bestseller in 2020. As a former CIA super spy, Fox has stellar media connections and it certainly won’t hurt that she is married to a member of the Kennedy family. The pace is a bit too brisk and the writing is rather pedestrian but she does succeed in providing a glimpse into her world during the time she was working within the most dangerous countries in the world. I will sleep a bit better knowing these spooks are on duty trying to make the wo ...more
Woman Reading
3 ☆ Leading a double life for the CIA exacted an emotional toll but provided a valued life lesson

In an October 2019 NPR article, “The War on Terrorism, Through the Eyes of 3 Women in the CIA,” this was one of the three books recently published and cited. I read Life Undercover because I was curious about not only on how does one become a spook but what does a foreign intelligence officer actually do? Has this position been glorified by me viewing too many James Bond and Jason Bourne movies?

Lif
...more
Margo Tanenbaum
This new memoir is a well written account of what it's like as a young woman to be recruited by the CIA and then to serve as a top secret undercover officer. While I found the book engrossing, I found the author's attitude in the book to be very irritating--I wish I could have her confidence in the US strategies abroad. In reading her book, you might think that the US always takes the moral high road--we are good, the other guys are bad, etc. The world is not that simplistic. Ms. Fox is clearly ...more
Robyn
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The spy who prevented a nuclear attack with a bottle of clove oil...

This is the absolutely riveting story of a modern day spy, a real life James Bond, although, as she notes, Bond is ridiculous; in the real world of espionage, "one street chase and my cover is blown for life." This is the story of how Ms. Fox became a spy, what that life cost her and what it gained, and why she left.

This memoir exposes so many secret lives, all at once. Ms Fox talks about being recruited by the CIA while still i
...more
Jasmine
4.5/5

I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. Usually, with 'memoirs' surrounding war and violence, I find that I lose interest quickly either out of repetitiveness or because the events are tough to swallow. Life Undercover was nothing like that at all. It was very much about the strain that being an undercover agent had on Fox's relationships with colleagues, with men, and with her family.

It was moving in every way, particularly from the halfway point where she talks about her decision to s
...more
Ben
Oct 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
It's a bit thin for a memoir. Already a short book, it is heavily padded with stories from her childhood. There's not enough from her time at the CIA. What we do get feels a bit simplistic, not introspective, especially her final epiphany. I'm a bit skeptical of some of the situations, too; are we really supposed to believe that nuclear arms dealers were dealing with an American woman in her mid-twenties, without guessing that she's a government agent? Maybe it was all a scam.

> Many of the deal
...more
Ed
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rousing, thought-provoking story of a young lady's ten-year tenure at the CIA working undercover, often overseas in trouble spots. I liked reading about her processes and methods. I also admire her dedication and tenacity. The pace doesn't lag. I don't remember reading any long gross scenes.
Carmen Liffengren
3.5 Stars

I wasn't exactly expecting Sydney Bristow and Alias or anything like that, but that's kind of what I got (minus the Rambaldi Device). Fox led a most impressive and unique life. At 21, she was recruited by the CIA and fast-tracked into ops training. I could almost see the film montage of that particularly grueling training. I was keenly fascinated by the chess-like maneuvering that Fox employs juggling intelligence, contacts, classified info, and targets. What I really wanted more of was
...more
Tom
Nov 06, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book drove me crazy. It was sloppy and full of things that were way beyond belief. ie. Her high school class went to Burma and when they were leaving she told the teacher she did not want to leave so she stayed by herself with less then $100 on her. She then went to meet with Aung Sun Suu Ki. She took a videtape and snuck it out in her snapper. Right....This reads more like a Forest Gump episode then anything else. I did wonder how the CIA would allow a book to get out with their secrets an ...more
Randal White
Wow! I loved this book. How in the world did the author get it past the censors at the CIA?
Quickly moving, well written, intriguing story.
The author has an amazing story to tell. And tells it masterfully. So much better than the typical “I did all these great and dangerous things in my career, but due to national security, I can’t tell you about them” book of this type. No, she tells the stories, warts and all. And bares her soul, telling of her own struggles, mistakes, and misgivings. And the
...more
Roman Clodia
Jan 18, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Very disappointing: Fox keeps things pretty shallow and isn't a natural writer (a bus is like a dragon, lots of her sentences start 'I' so that they don't flow with rhythm). The first 30% or so percent is her pre-CIA life and isn't especially interesting. Once she does get recruited, there isn't enough specific detail to make this worth reading. We're all pretty clued up these days about what goes on in the intelligence services so if you're familiar with le Carré and real accounts such as 'The ...more
Cheryl
At the age of 21, Amaryllis Fox was ready to make a difference in the world. She had completed an undergraduate degree in international law and theology at Oxford. She then returned to the United States and enrolled at Georgetown University where she developed an algorithm which could predict the likelihood that a terrorist cell could attack anywhere in the world. Her work did not go unnoticed and, while still a student, she was recruited to work as a covert agent for the CIA.

Her assignments too
...more
Ribhi
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
For such an interesting life, I was left incredibly bored and uninterested in the contents of this book. Her boring and childish writing style is an injustice to her interesting story. She fails to explore the CIA with any real depth which left me very disappointed. Giving it 2 stars for how interesting her life was, and she did a good job of just pushing the story on, just without any real depth. Really a shame.
Donald Powell
An interesting book about a very young agent of the Central Intelligence Agency. She is obviously very intelligent, well read and dedicated Makes me proud that such folks are selected for such duty. She left the work after a fairly short term and her ultimate message is one of peace and reconciliation. Very laudable.
human
Nov 25, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
thank you, npr article, because this book sounds so incredibly interesting! ...more
Mrtruscott
I must miss the series “The Americans,” about the suburban Russian spy couple. This book was a very PG version of that show. The book was short, it was a fast read, it was a C-.

I kept thinking “they’re babies!” about the author and her colleagues. Ahem. Well, they are! We like to recruit and draft the young and naive to fight our battles.

So despite the author’s hyper-educated credentials, I can attribute her earnestness and “kumbaya-parents will save the world with love for the children” to her
...more
Liz
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Narcissism cloaked in a thin veil of patriotism and justice. It must be nice to single-handedly save the world from nuclear holocaust, hang up your spook hat after less than 10 years, move in with your wealthy parents, and write a book glamorizing your heroics. Noblesse oblige, indeed.
Edward Conley
Not up to the hype

No where as interesting as predicted. Writing not up making it suspenseful or gripping. Not worth the cost or the effort read.
Mal Warwick
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Most of us know what little we know about the work of the CIA from novels. Of course, much of that, perhaps most of it, is fanciful. Former CIA officers do write memoirs from time to time, but often, as the Washington Post noted (June 4, 2012), they write to "settle scores about spies." And, as the New York Times revealed (March 15, 2005) in "Ex-Spies Tell It All," their portrait of the Central Intelligence Agency is sometimes "none too flattering." It's refreshing, then, to encounter a memoir w ...more
KC
Recruited at a very young age, Amaryllis Fox reveals life undercover in the utmost elite clandestine unit of the CIA. Although she has a distinct talent for writing the written word, lyrical at times, the story often becomes choppy and segmented. Still, extremely interesting and engaging. She is a brilliant narrator if listening to the audiobook.
Sue Em
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Y.
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019, memoirs
I always like reading others' reviews, because it helps me see if my views are outliers or not (not that it matters!). I didn't get the sense that Fox believes the CIA's the "only truth" at all. I thought it was pretty clear she thinks peace is the "truth" (in a sense), and that humanity, and treating others like they're humans, is the best way to go about achieving said peace.

I mean, obviously, this may not apply to all, but isn't peace what some/most religious sects, etc. purport to want to h
...more
Dawn
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw the author on a docuseries about Jack The Ripper a couple of years ago. I was fascinated that she was retired from the CIA and fairly young AND a female. So I was super excited to see she had written a memoir about her experience. I feel like I barely had it together at 22. Ms. Fox was studying at Oxford, wrote a logarithm to catch terrorists, and was recruited and trained by the CIA to go deep undercover in war-torn Middle East. She is a real-life Carrie Mathison for you Homeland series f ...more
Brandon Forsyth
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A real-life ALIAS, with plenty to say on geopolitics and motherhood and the nature of secrets. I’m in awe of Amaryllis Fox.
Shannon
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A super interesting insight into the life of an undercover CIA agent. It reads like a tense thriller in parts. I sort of badly want to be her but know I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.
Lindsey
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I could not put this book down! Life Undercover is exhilarating, intimate, and fiercely intelligent. It is a riveting narrative of compassion, revealing that the path to peace is through understanding the common humanity in us all. Amaryllis Fox records her extraordinary life of astonishing courage and passion. Long story short- she spent a decade with the spy agency (recruited at the young age of 21), traveling the world, posing as an art dealer while she recruited arms dealers as assets and tr ...more
Janet
When it is hot as heck outside and there is nothing cool to do but reading as everything else makes you end up a sweaty mess, it is the perfect day for a speed reader.

I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.


Amaryllis Fox's riveting memoir tells the story of her ten years in th
...more
John McDonald
In what must be a heavily edited book, Ms. Fox takes on her journey as an NOC (nonofficial cover), an operations specialist for the the CIA which substantially focuses on a few aspects of her training, her marriage to a special operations CIA officer, her pregnancy and the birth of her child, and a single long term episode trying to turn 'Jakob', a small times arms dealer, into an agency informant.
The work is heavy with the author's thoughts and emotions, especially those involving her marriage
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Unexpected Spy: From the CIA to the FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World's Most Notorious Terrorists
  • The Beautiful Ones
  • When Less Becomes More: Making Space for Slow, Simple, and Good
  • How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse (The Thorne Chronicles, #1)
  • The Grammarians
  • Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family
  • The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite
  • We Are All Good People Here
  • This Is Your Brain on Birth Control: The Surprising Science of Women, Hormones, and the Law of Unintended Consequences
  • The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company
  • Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law
  • Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms
  • America's Reluctant Prince: The Life of John F. Kennedy Jr.
  • The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us
  • The Fountains of Silence
  • The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution
  • Lethal Agent (Mitch Rapp, #18)
  • Year of the Monkey
See similar books…

News & Interviews

“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” That’s Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani human rights...
24 likes · 6 comments
“The idea that our highest duty is not to follow the law but to do whatever we know to be right fills me with calm and hope and awe.” 0 likes
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” 0 likes
More quotes…