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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller •

“This is one of those books that will go down as the seminal work - the determinative work - in this field.... Terrifying.” (Rachel Maddow)

The first definitive account of the rise and fall of the Secret Service, from the Kennedy assassination to the alarming mismanagement of the Obama and Trump years, right up to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 - by the Pulitzer Prize winner and number one New York Times best-selling co-author of A Very Stable Genius and I Alone Can Fix It

Carol Leonnig has been reporting on the Secret Service for The Washington Post for most of the last decade, bringing to light the secrets, scandals, and shortcomings that plague the agency today - from a toxic work culture to dangerously outdated equipment to the deep resentment within the ranks at key agency leaders, who put protecting the agency’s once-hallowed image before fixing its flaws. But the Secret Service wasn’t always so troubled.

The Secret Service was born in 1865, in the wake of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, but its story begins in earnest in 1963, with the death of John F. Kennedy. Shocked into reform by its failure to protect the president on that fateful day in Dallas, this once-sleepy agency was radically transformed into an elite, highly trained unit that would redeem itself several times, most famously in 1981 by thwarting an assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan. But this reputation for courage and excellence would not last forever. By Barack Obama’s presidency, the once-proud Secret Service was running on fumes and beset by mistakes and alarming lapses in judgment: break-ins at the White House, an armed gunman firing into the windows of the residence while confused agents stood by, and a massive prostitution scandal among agents in Cartagena, to name just a few. With Donald Trump’s arrival, a series of promised reforms were cast aside, as a president disdainful of public service instead abused the Secret Service to rack up political and personal gains.

To explore these problems in the ranks, Leonnig interviewed dozens of current and former agents, government officials, and whistleblowers who put their jobs on the line to speak out about a hobbled agency that’s in desperate need of reform. “I will be forever grateful to them for risking their careers,” she writes, “not because they wanted to share tantalizing gossip about presidents and their families, but because they know that the Service is broken and needs fixing. By telling their story, they hope to revive the Service they love.”

©2021 Carol Leonnig (P)2021 Random House Audio

What listeners say about Zero Fail

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good Journalism; Mediocre Editing

The content of this book is not only interesting, but hopefully also impactful. The writing is okay but the editing is poorly done; had it been better lots the frequent trite and unnecessary phrases would have been removed. I wouldn’t let this deter you if you are contemplating checking out the dangerous behaviour of the Secret Service AND Presidents.

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Well researched, lots of information here.

While acknowledging how difficult it is to read such extensive material, Carol is factual, unemotional, and at one point near the end, vocally exhausted. The information in this deep dive is interesting and in some ways predictable, and it confirms many of the things suspected by the public as we watched it unfold before us. Well done, Carol. I’ll be watching for your next tour de force.

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Fabulous and frightening

I am already a huge fan of Carole Leonnig, having watched her numerous times on interviewed on MSNBC and CNN. Equally I found her collaborative book “A Very Stable Genius” co authored with Phil Rucker an extraordinarily revealing description of the real (and dangerous) Donald Trump.
Zero Fail is a detailed, compelling and in many ways a frightening expose of one of the security services in the USA that suffers from ineptitude, leader arrogance and gross mismanagement.
This is an important piece of research and hopefully will be a wake up call to those responsible to make the changes needed.

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Great insight into the service

The book was great. The author seemed to remain objective until the last section of the book. It was fitting she narrated it as the language used was full of bias, which wasn’t seen in the previous sections.

Overall a great listen if you are interested in the subject.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-06-04

Pathetic

Alternative title: Ineptitude and the wonderful Bush Family.

No mention of the Saudi family and Bush/Cheney fortunes were exponentially increased, yet the author drags through the Clinton years with obvious distain and partisanship.

I cannot fathom how mentioning Monica Lewinski’s thong, or lurid details of oral sexcapades added value to the story, let alone dragging her name and human error back from a place she may finally have made peace with.

Petty. Shameful. I’ll never buy/read another book by this author.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Diane
  • 2021-05-21

If you are worried about narration...

In my experience, very few authors make good narrators, too. The first and last part of this book is narrated by the author. Unfortunately. It's excruciating. Hang in there until the actual narrator takes over...she's one of the best I have heard. The book is so revealing that it is worth the pain!

14 people found this helpful

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  • Paul P
  • 2021-05-24

Bait and switch narration with tabloid journalism

Two main things. Another reviewer mentions that the author begins and ends the book doing her own narration. They said to hang in there through the author's intro, because the main narrator is excellent and the story is great. (and she is! Maggi-Meg Reed is amazing) I recommend you do not hang in there. The author reads the last 3 and half hours! Run, run, run from this book because you will be unable to finish it.

If you are still thinking about paying for this, stop. In the beginning, the author addresses "Secret Service leaders and alumni" who have vowed to attack her work. She claims she is writing it because the rank and file members of the Service "deserve better". Very noble, very journalistic. Then, after several hours of interesting details about the early years, the book veers toward salacious stories about Clinton's sexual escapades. Much of what was covered was not even related to the Secret Service! It's sensational stuff fit for the tabloids. After that, the book does get back to journalism, but you will listen to hours of garbage before it does. Then, it will come to a screeching halt when the author takes over the narration.

I don't normally stop reading a book after investing so much time, but it's just not worth it.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Optimus Prime gb
  • 2021-05-21

I feel conflicted

Thank you for this book. I thank the author narrators and all who braved letting things come to light. I am conflicted about this much needed agency or service. It has the capacity to much good and much harm. And it has done both. Thank you for risking it all to try to protect our priceless symbol of power and freedom. We elect them and you try to protect them. Its a revelation to me how much JFKs tragedy is central to the services outlook. Likewise 911.

These kinds of events are very much living under your skin. Thank you for dedicating yourselves to preventing these kinds of events. However the patient (the service) may be in extremis. How can a regular person assist you? How can I trust you not to push such a racist and mysogynistic outlook? I remind myself you are just human beings. But you have a higher calling to place yourself between.

I can campaign to my president and congress to provide a better budget but I need some assurance from you cops that you are not going to make me regret it. Better equipment and more money and efficiency should come with changes to the boys club outlook. I am also human.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Melissa
  • 2021-05-27

story, interesting, authors narration, not

I enjoyed the book topic it covered. The authors speaking parts were painful to listen to. The other narrator was fine. The authors list of people she thanked went on and on, well over 100 people. Stupid and pretentious.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-05-26

Zero Fail gives compelling insight into the secret service

I am so grateful there are people like Carol Leoning that will look beyond the first or second layer on a subject and push through to the hundredth layer. The Secret Service is many things you think it would be, yet suffers from things the public would never be aware of without her showing the good, bad and what needs to change for the United States to keep our leader’s safe. I found it sad and compelling how those that give their lives to this device can be victims of infighting, while being overworked and underfunded. I loved the history and the hope, along with the peek in to the personalities of our first families behind the scenes.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Moore
  • 2021-05-23

interesting read

prologue & epilogue Narration by Carol Leonnig, is absolutely horrible. Zero personalityin the narration. absolutely puts you to sleep.
thank goodness Maggie-Meg Reed, actually narrated the entire chapters.
as she brought personality in her narration, which made the book a bit captivating and interesting.

7 people found this helpful

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  • dt1225
  • 2021-05-21

Extraordinary insight into the Secret Service

This was an excellent book very easy to listen to and a very intriguing story of the Secret Service

7 people found this helpful

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  • R. Scott Goosen
  • 2021-05-20

Zero Fail-great read-poor reader pf book

I enjoyed the book portion but not the Audible book due to the reader. In my opinion, the author should have paid for a professional reader. The details are there, the research was well done, the reader of this Audible book was awful-a 1 star.

4 people found this helpful

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  • C.A.Sizemore
  • 2021-05-20

Gripping read

Do you want to know the truth behind the mirrored shades of a once admired service.

4 people found this helpful