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The Scientist and the Spy  By  cover art

The Scientist and the Spy

By: Mara Hvistendahl
Narrated by: James Lurie, Mara Hvistendahl
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Publisher's summary

A riveting true story of industrial espionage in which a Chinese-born scientist is pursued by the US government for trying to steal trade secrets, by a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction.

In September 2011, sheriff’s deputies in Iowa encountered three ethnic Chinese men near a field where a farmer was growing corn seed under contract with Monsanto. What began as a simple trespassing inquiry mushroomed into a two-year FBI operation in which investigators bugged the men’s rental cars, used a warrant intended for foreign terrorists and spies, and flew surveillance planes over corn country - all in the name of protecting trade secrets of corporate giants Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer. In The Scientist and the Spy, Hvistendahl gives a gripping account of this unusually far-reaching investigation, which pitted a veteran FBI special agent against Florida resident Robert Mo, who after his academic career foundered took a questionable job with the Chinese agricultural company DBN - and became a pawn in a global rivalry.

Industrial espionage by Chinese companies lies beneath the United States’ recent trade war with China, and it is one of the top counterintelligence targets of the FBI. But a decade of efforts to stem the problem have been largely ineffective. Through previously unreleased FBI files and her reporting from across the United States and China, Hvistendahl describes a long history of shoddy counterintelligence on China, much of it tinged with racism, and questions the role that corporate influence plays in trade secrets theft cases brought by the US government. The Scientist and the Spy is both an important exploration of the issues at stake and a compelling, involving listen.

©2020 Mara Hvistendahl (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

“[A] fascinating and well-researched study.... Those looking for insights into the current tensions with China will be rewarded.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) 

“Not since Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest has a cornfield produced so much excitement.... Hvistendahl makes industrial espionage both understandable and riveting.... 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... Hard to put down and harder to stop thinking about.” (Booklist, starred review)

"You will learn more about China from this thrilling, real-life drama than you will from a whole stack of China-related books by lesser talents. Mara Hvistendahl has given us an utterly original, provocative, and revealing tale of the relationship between China and the United States - and what a tale it is. Intrepid, humane, and always tough-minded, she writes with the lucid precision of a science writer and the flair of a seasoned spy novelist." (Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China)

What listeners say about The Scientist and the Spy

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