MASTER OF DECEIT

J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies

By Marc Aronson

Candlewick. $25.99. Age 14 and up

Like “Enemies,” Tim Weiner’s recent FBI book for adults, Marc Aronson’s new book for teens points to the parallels between today’s struggles over safety and freedom and the ones that J. Edgar Hoover presided over as director of the FBI. The Red Scare and its fallout were menacing on multiple levels, which Aronson succeeds in evoking for a young audience. “We can benefit from the story of Communism and anti-Communism,” he writes in his introduction, “only if we experience it as the people who lived it did — with passion.” Compellingly illustrated with period photos and posters, “Master of Deceit” shows how Hoover’s passions were tied up with power and information (digging it up, cataloguing it, guarding it, using it). But the book also describes the sharply divergent views of the left and the right, as well as how both sides used fierce intimidation at various periods during Hoover’s long reign. The phrase “Age of Lies” in the subtitle may seem at first like melodrama, but Aronson chillingly recounts the extent to which many American lives were manipulated and ruined. Noble actors abound in the book, starting with Assistant Secretary of Labor Louis Post, who insisted on careful and specific proof against anyone accused. Those who trampled over American laws don’t come off so well.

Abby McGanney Nolan