"You know you are a CIA dependent when... [y]our husband tells you he's going on a trip and can't tell you where and you don't even wonder why," says one such dependent. Paging through old address books, Chiao and O'Brien, who have lived in many far corners of the world as the wives of spies, tracked down other women like themselves around the globe, leading to "numerous luncheons, afternoon teas, telephone calls, e-mails, conversations and then, this book," a collection of more than 90 true accounts—many hilarious, others frightening—by 30 spouses and daughters of CIA agents. (Only 16 contributors are credited, since many wished to remain anonymous.) Experiences here include culture shock, cover jobs, hardships, espionage, embassy attacks, evacuations, typhoons, secret love affairs and drunken parties. Particularly poignant are tales of teens suddenly surprised when told the truth by their CIA dads. Most incidents fill two or three pages, and some get only a sketchy paragraph. The contributions have been regrettably fragmented into thematic groupings, so any sense of personalities and cohesion is absent. The unfortunate final effect is that of a distractingly incomplete, unsolvable puzzle, as the reader riddles over which abbreviated anecdotes were once joined together. The book concludes with a two-page glossary explaining such terms as "compartmentation" (being told only what one needs to know) and "dead drop" ("a concealed site established for transfer or passage of clandestine material, information or equipment"). (Mar. 15)
Forecast: Although a useful training manual for spies' wives-to-be, this hodgepodge will have little appeal beyond the most espionage-addicted readers.
Reviewed on: 02/19/2001 Release date: 04/01/2001 Genre: Nonfiction