Started reading: 16th August 2010
Finished reading: 29th November 2010
The history of the FBI is fascinating, and this book covers the whole of it. It discusses the early organization and fall into corruption, the time under Hoover (and corruption of an entirely different sort), and the mismanagement of the agency’s most notorious directors.
But the real meat comes in the form of the countless cases, anecdotes, and embellishments. Kessler tells all the biggest and best stories: the Rosenburgs, Robert Hanssen, Wen Ho Lee, 9/11, Ruby Ridge, and the Waco Massacre. For the most part, it’s a very fun romp.
The book has a critical weakness, however. When discussing people, it is superb. At many points, however, it devolves to a discussion of institutions. Though the story of the various directors and their (mostly disastrous) tenures is interesting, it probably appeals more to politicos and those with an institutional interest. Regrettably, I have neither.
Personally, I was more interested in the cases, and found that they tapered off toward the end of the book. This is a true shame. Hearing that Hoover delusionally dreamed about personally arresting high-profile criminals was my favorite dinner trivia for about a month.
Regardless, the book is a good read and an excellent way to learn more about the FBI.