A former Midwesterner who is equally comfortable in farmers’ kitchens as in her high-rise apartment in Beijing, Hvistendahl is uniquely situated to tell this unexpectedly dramatic story ... Hvistendahl traces the particulars of Mo’s case, but she also explores the racialized history of FBI investigations into Chinese immigrants. Her careful contextualization of the case makes its particulars loom with the uncertainty of a fun house mirror ... read this fascinating story, which speaks to the larger geopolitical tensions shaping our time.
How do you make a story about some Chinese guys pilfering corn from an Iowa farm field into a fascinating, timely book that is global in scope? Easy. Report as thoroughly and write as well as Minneapolis journalist Mara Hvistendahl does ... Complex (if not very sympathetic) characters abound ... Hvistendahl gives the corn-stealing caper the full thriller treatment, complete with evocative, cinematic detail. But the cat-and-mouse story alone is not big potatoes, and is somewhat muddied by an incomplete rendering of exactly what motivates the Chinese government in the risky trade-secret war ... Wisely, Hvistendahl also reports on related complexities of the $52 billion global seed market.
Hvistendahl makes industrial espionage both understandable and riveting, chiefly by focusing her narrative on two scientists (one Chinese, one American, both manipulated by DBG) who, wittingly and unwittingly, are forced into collecting seeds and information for DBG. This is a complex story, but it’s presented clearly and vividly, thanks to Hvistendahl’s background as a science journalist here and in China; to her exquisite pacing; and to her narrative skills. Unlike many current spy books, which focus on long-ago espionage, this one examines an investigation into the pressing, ongoing problem of industrial espionage. Hard to put down and harder to stop thinking about.