A book about a fascinating subject that is poorly executed can't help but be a bad book. It's difficult for non-historians to conceive the concept of making a fascinating period in history incredibly dry and difficult to digest. The author, a History of Science professor, has succeeded admirably in this regrettable academics' pursuit.
The author's repeated use of the term "gadget" to describe spy technology is particularly regrettable. A good spy yarn-- be it fiction or non-fiction-- should, just like any book which is a good read, be built upon pacing and sharp writing. Unfortunately, Kristie Macrakis is exceedingly bad at transitions, so that the resulting prose is distractingly choppy and distracting.
There is no question that this is a fascinating subject and the index certainly makes it a valuable resource for researchers studying this subject.
I recently saw The Lives of Others which was a superb movie about Stasi agents and the brutality of a police state that the Stasi was created to protect. The danger of secret police is that they often become a state unto themselves. The Germans learned this twice, and perhaps more, but most particularly with the Gestapo and their ugly children, the Stasi.
I don't enjoy giving a poor review to a book such as this, which is clearly founded on solid research.
However, as a reader, I need the research to be delivered in an exciting and entertaining way; this book just does not deliver. I applaud the author as a researcher, but I am disappointed with how the book is written and the story told.