Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Master of Disguise: A Book Review

Shortly after I watched the movie Argo, which was a little while ago now, I decided I needed to pick up this book to get some more information on this subject.  I hauled this book in my June Book Haul, and I couldn’t wait to read it because I really love the movie plus this nonfiction book broadened my reading horizons (which I try to do every once in a while)!

Title: The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA
Author: Antonio J. Mendez & Malcolm McConnell
Genre: Biography; Historical Nonfiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: October 20, 1999
Pages: 376
Out in Paperback?: Yes; November 7, 2000
My Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Summary:

From the author of Argo comes an unforgettable behind-the-scenes story of espionage in action. In the first ever memoir by a top-level operative to be authorized by the CIA, Antonio J. Mendez reveals the cunning tricks and insights that helped save hundreds from deadly situations.

Adept at creating new identities for anyone, anywhere, Mendez was involved in operations all over the world, from "Wild West" adventures in East Asia to Cold War intrigue in Moscow. In 1980, he orchestrated the escape of six Americans from a hostage situation in revolutionary Tehran, Iran. This extraordinary operation inspired the movie Argo, directed by and starring Ben Affleck.

The Master of Disguise gives us a privileged look at what really happens at the highest levels of international espionage: in the field, undercover, and behind closed doors.


This book doesn’t really have “characters” as it is a nonfiction biography; however, the CIA agents do create disguises, which could kinda be considered a character, for their missions.  I was most specifically interested in Antonio J. Mendez, simply because of Argo.  I had recently watched the movie and LOVED it and decided I needed to check out this book too!  Throughout the novel, Tony Mendez was very interesting as the main focus, detailing his job and the missions he was involved in as well as the disguises he is famous for creating.  Other CIA officers were mentioned, those who he worked with, however they were not discussed in detail.  Tony’s family was also mentioned, his wife and children, and I kept thinking how difficult it would be to be married to a CIA officer, who must continuously keep his job, which can be extremely dangerous, a secret.


The plot details the life of Tony’s career in the CIA, beginning in the 1960s.  Several different missions were detailed as well as the disguises involved (different names were used in the book, of course, for confidentiality reasons).  I really enjoyed the small details that were discussed when Tony was working to recreate other country’s paperwork.  For example, the detail about making sure that the stamps were not too crisp when applied to the paper or making sure that the appropriate amount of rust was recreated during the time of the Vietnam War, in the jungle and rainy environment, to ensure that the CIA agents looked like locals.  Chapter 9 discussed the plot of the movie Argo, dealing with the Iran hostage situation.  Overall, the book was really interesting to learn about all the small details that go into one CIA operation.

Writing Style:

I did very much enjoy the writing style of this book.  It was descriptive and detailed (as much as it could be when discussing CIA operations).  The only difficulty I had while reading this book was the abbreviations that were often used for different operations or different offices within the CIA.  I often had to go back a few pages to remind myself for what the abbreviation stood.  I don’t think I would mind, in this book specifically, if the full name of the offices with the CIA were used.  Other than that minor issue, I did really enjoy really this book and the writing was clear, sophisticated, and kept the plot interesting.

Movie Review:

Like I mentioned earlier, I ordered this book because I had watched the movie Argo.  I REALLY enjoyed Argo!  I felt like Ben Afflack did an amazing job starring in and directing this suspenseful movie!  I know this is silly, but I found myself holding my breath on the edge of my seat during really suspenseful moments (despite knowing what was going to happen … I mean, it is based off of historical events).  I really didn’t expected to enjoy this movie so much, and I would definitely recommend it!

Have you read this book?  Have you seen Argo? What did you think of them?

FTC Disclaimer:
All items mentioned were purchased by me.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.  No affiliate links were used.

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