There is a good deal of fumbling and no little intrigue, but nothing as compelling as the forces that moved Levinson to take the extraordinary risk that he did. In his emails and in the accounts of others, he emerges as an aging and cash-strapped former G-man who had a bunch of kids in college, and hopes of returning to the hurly-burly by impressing his enabler at the CIA, which Levinson calls 'the pickle factory' ... Constructed as a nonfiction thriller, Missing Man is at its core a tragedy, Death of a Salesman in the Persian Gulf.
Barry Meier’s book, Missing Man, provides more than enough information to make sense of Mr. Levinson’s tragic trip to Kish, a freewheeling entrepôt where Americans may visit without visas and where Iranian security forces seized the American, imprisoned him, and taunted his family and former colleagues with pictures of him disheveled and wasting away. Mr. Meier, a New York Times reporter who has covered this story for years, limns a depressing picture of the amateurish, voracious intelligence appetites of some in the CIA ... Mr. Meier respectfully lays out Mr. Levinson’s culpability without damning him. Most of all, the journalist goes after the negligence of the CIA, which eventually paid Mrs. Levinson more than $2 million in compensation for what happened to her husband.
Meier is a prize-winning, thoughtful journalist who has followed this story closely and written about it extensively in the New York Times. Which is a good thing, because the cast of shadowy characters and cameo appearances makes the convoluted story tough to follow. Questionable players with questionable agendas create such a sordid tale that the only people you feel for are Levinson’s heartbroken family. While Meier knows the details intimately, the reader needs more signposts.