The Pretender: Book Review

Title: The Pretender: My Life Undercover for the FBI

Author: Marc Ruskin

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Publication Date: 2017

Of all the tools available to law enforcement, the living, breathing undercover
remains the gold standard. This is true in TV shows and in the
real world. In the era of electronic surveillance, UC work enforces
accountability; it prevents mistakes, and of all the boots on the ground,
undercover agents are often the most valuable.

The FBI generally has about 100 UC agents working full-time in the field. In the 1990s and 2000s, Marc Ruskin had the most diverse, and notorious, case list of all, and the broadest experience within the bureaucracy, including overseas. He worked ops targeting public corruption, corporate fraud, Wall Street scams, narcotics trafficking, La Cosa Nostra, counterfeiting—and gritty street-level scams and schemes.

Sometimes working three or four cases simultaneously, Ruskin switched
identities by the day: Each morning he had to walk out the door with the
correct ID, clothes, accessories and frame of mind for that day’s mission. Meet
Alex Perez, Alejandro Marconi, and Sal Morelli, just a few of Ruskin’s
undercover personas.

And how is the right UC agent chosen, how is a bogus identity manufactured and “backstopped,” how is the Bureau’s long-term con painstakingly assembled? No one has ever given us the inside story like Ruskin. The Pretender is the definitive narrative of undercover ops—the procedures, the successes, the failures–and the changes in the culture of the new-era FBI.

Book Review:

I brought this product as a study to distinguish Hollywood FBI from Real Time FBI. The pretender answered all the questions I had, and ones I didn’t know I had. This is not my normal read, as I typically experience the FBI aka Mr. Fine, through romance novels. I always questioned the use of code names, and tech gear some of my favorite novelist such as Brenda Jackson, or Iris Bolling would use, as some of the names were humorous in my opinion. However, the use of case names and code talk was confirmed by Mr. Ruskin. A nitpick that I had was the overstatement of Mr. Ruskin being Jewish. In reading the book, it was left to question a matter of how it felt to die to oneself seemingly everyday over a 20 year career? Meaning, I wonder if in some way pretending to be the criminal, somehow fed the criminal in you? Yes, I know an FBI agent is supposed to hold a certain standard, however a UC (undercover agent) boarders the line of a rehabilitated criminal. I am also, very curious about how Mr. Ruskin maintained his personal life? Albeit readers got snippets, but snippets none the least. Lastly, how did Ms. Carmen, now Mrs. Carmen, who as I recall an FBI agent, met her beau, who is also an FBI agent? If you have any “T” (truth), regarding how these two met Mr. Ruskin, I am all ears, and eyes!!! Side note: I am more interested as to how the FBI, and FBI UC’s in the digital age operate now. Thank you, Mr. Ruskin for the details, and new vocab! I suggest general readers have a dictionary on standby, and Mr. Ruskin does have a recap at the end of FBI Argot and Acronyms. This book is highly recommended.

About Marc Ruskin

Marc Ruskin is the author of The Pretender, My Life Undercover for the FBI, released June 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press. A memoir and exposé of the inner workings of the FBI, The Pretender has received extensive domestic and international media attention.

Marc is a retired FBI Special Agent with 20 years’ experience in Undercover Operations. He successfully infiltrated a New York Mafia crime family, an ethnic Chinese Malaysian heroin organization, a Wall Street trading exchange, right-wing terrorist groups, and worked on espionage cases. Though these cases and many others received much media coverage, neither Marc’s name nor any of his dozen aliases could ever be mentioned. He has been awarded five Commendations from the Director of the FBI for his work. A native French and Spanish speaker, Marc has worked at US Embassies in Paris, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Asunción, where he was given a Letter of Recognition from the Minister of the Interior for the rescue of a kidnapped former Miss Paraguay, Mariangela Martinez.

As an FBI certified police instructor, Marc has lectured at universities and law enforcement academies. Since his retirement from the FBI in 2012, he has divided his time between a law practice in New York and extended sojourns in Liaoning Province, China, where he writes and studies Mandarin.

Marc’s path to the FBI included degrees from Vassar College and Cardozo Law School (cum laude), clerking for Federal Judge H. Curtis Meanor, two years in Washington on the staff of U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and four years as an Assistant District Attorney with the Brooklyn D.A.’s Office.


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