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Past Perfectby Susan Isaacs
Synopses & Reviews
Fifteen years ago, Katie Schottland snagged her dream job as an analyst for the CIA. She worked for the Agency for a glorious two years, just as the Soviet bloc was collapsing, and the Cold War coming to an end. Then she was shown to the door — without an explanation as to why she was fired. Nothing else I'd done or would ever do would ever feel so right. Then it was gone....I couldn't find another job.
Katie spent the next few years agonizing over her loss and her own shortcomings until she gave birth to her son and, soon after, a novel called Spy Guys. Now she writes for a cable TV series spawned from her novel, but still misses the espionage work she once loved.
A phone call from a former colleague changes everything. The woman, once involved in preparing high level refugees for their new American lives, begs for Katie's help in return for answers about her past. She, it seems, can explain why Katie so suddenly became persona non grata. But can Katie go from writing the fluffy, fictional Spy Guys to surviving in the world of espionage where the bullets are real — and hardly anyone lives happily ever after?
"Isaacs's 11th novel has fewer sparks flying than nets dragging, but most fans won't mind a bit, given the amount of outside-the-bedroom adventure. Despite reinventing herself as the author of the novel Spy Guys and the creator of the resultant TV show, Katie Schottland remains wounded by her still-unexplained firing from the CIA, where she wrote intelligence briefs as the Cold War ended, 13 years earlier. When she gets a distress call from an old co-worker, Lisa Golding, who subsequently disappears, Katie plunges back into the notes she smuggled out of the office. She seeks help from an old flame and another ex-agent (now a log-cabin recluse) who helps her trace three of Lisa's former charges at the CIA, East German asylum seekers transported to America and given new names. When two of them turn up dead within weeks of each other, Katie decides to give chase to locate the third before the woman becomes the next casualty. And she still hopes she'll coerce her ex-employer to give up the truth about her termination. The operations stuff is well-done throughout. Katie's relationship with her sweet vet husband adds little, but TV show — based scenes are diverting, and her fixation on her last job is sharply funny and true-to-life." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"With 10 best-selling novels to date, Susan Isaacs has made a career out of conjuring up gumptious gals. In her new book, 'Past Perfect,' Isaacs returns to a pairing that has served her well: sassy New York mom + murder. Katie Schottland is a soon-to-be-40 Upper West Sider packing her beloved, chunky son, Nicky, off to Camp Lionheart for the summer, where he will eat fruit kebabs and... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) exercise nonstop in the hope of being freed from 'large-bellied shorts.' Ostensibly, this also will give Katie more time to spend with her veterinarian husband and to focus on her career as the writer for cable TV's 'Spy Guys,' 'a fluffy forty-seven minutes for viewers who enjoyed being willfully ignorant about the actual doings of the Central Intelligence Agency.' But Nicky's departure for Maine coincides with a bizarre phone call from an ex-colleague, a shallow woman whom Katie worked with during a two-year stint in her mid-20s as a real-deal CIA analyst. Seems this Lisa Golding wants to tell her something 'of national importance' and, as a sweetener, also promises to reveal info on why Katie was inexplicably fired from the agency, a blow from which her pride has never recovered. But there's a problem: After that first call, Lisa never calls back. Some people might blow this off, but Katie's so routinely anxious — or so Spy Guy'd out — that she sees ways in which even an innocent run in the park could accidentally turn deadly: 'being attacked by a swarm of bees, tripping over a tree root and smashing (her) head, getting run over by an out-of-control in-line skater.' So she frets. Then probes. Then, to jog her memory, she digs up the secret notes she took while working with Lisa at the CIA. (Yes, she used to come home from Langley and take notes — not the wisest way to unwind.) Before you know it, she's dealing with Cold War history and cold dead people. Lots of Isaacs trademarks are in full force here: a funny, smart and smart-alecky heroine; a good supporting cast; and wit to burn, including some classic Red State/Blue State digs. But the pace is strangely uneven. The book starts slowly as Katie recounts her CIA days and their upsettingly abrupt ending to her mother, father, sister and even ex-brother-in-law. One at a time. By the novel's end, though, the action is heart-thumpingly fast and creepy as Katie follows a tenuous line of clues to 'fried pork rinds country' and winds up cornering a killer. Isaacs is so good at what she does that her deservedly loyal fans are bound to be charmed. Newcomers looking to get hooked, though, should start with her popular and immediately absorbing family drama 'Any Place I Hang My Hat.' Claudia Deane is a writer in Washington, DC." Reviewed by Reza AslanMartin van CreveldFlora FraserRon CharlesMolly MooreClaudia Deane, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Filled with well-rounded characters and good humor, this novel, like Isaacs's previous works...could be a best seller." Library Journal
"Isaacs' thriller is complicated enough to keep you guessing until the end." Kirkus Reviews
"Isaacs...can be counted on to ring cash registers, and if this isn't her best effort, it does offer a cast of reasonably engaging characters headed by Katie, a woman determined — once and for all — to make peace with her past." Booklist
"Susan Isaacs has an incredibly good ear for dialogue and a very sharp eye for the silly and stupid things people really do. Picture yourself laughing out loud while sitting on the edge of your seat and furiously flipping pages. The clever plot, the quick pace, and the pitch-perfect writing are good clues that Past Perfect was written by a master storyteller." Nelson DeMille, author of Wild Fire
"I love Susan Isaacs! Her books come straight from the heart, and her characters are smart, funny, and feisty enough to be your best girlfriend — not only for three hundred pages, but for life. Past Perfect introduces Katie Schottland — a terrific galpal who packs her kid off to summer camp and sleuths as a CIA analyst with equal style. Put simply, Past Perfect is perfect!" Lisa Scottoline, author of Dirty Blonde
"There has to be a name for the literary form Susan Isaacs has invented: the funny scary book. The woman who made us laugh as well as shiver in fear over a murder investigation in Compromising Positions has done the same thing for the CIA and international espionage. Past Perfect made me laugh, but it also kept me jumping out of bed every time a floorboard creaked in my old house." Sara Paretsky, author of Fire Sale
From the New York Times bestselling author of Any Place I Hang My Hat, Compromising Positions, and Shining Through comes a wonderful new novel about a woman ousted from the CIA who, years later, finds herself back in the game.
In Past Perfect, Susan Isaacs gives us one of her most glorious characters ever: bright, buoyant, and borderline luscious Katie Schottland. Katie seems to have the ideal life: a great husband, a precocious and winning ten-year-old son, and a dream job — writer for the long-running TV series Spy Guys. But all is not as splendid as it should be because writing about the espionage business isn't nearly as satisfying as working in it.
Fifteen years earlier, Katie was in the CIA. She loved her job (to say nothing of her boss, the mysterious Benton Mattingly). Yet just as she was sensing she was in line for a promotion, she was fired — escorted off the premises by two extremely hulking security types. Why? No one would tell her: when you're expelled from the Agency, warm friends immediately become icy ex-colleagues who won't risk their security clearances by talking to you.
Until that day, Katie was where she wanted to be. Coming from a family of Manhattan superachievers, she too had a job she not only adored but a job that made her, in the family tradition, a Someone. Fifteen years later, Katie is still stuck on her firing. Was she set up? Or did she make some terrible mistake that cost lives? She believes that if she could discover why they threw her out, she might be at peace.
On the day she's rushing to get her son off to summer camp, Katie gets a surprise call from former Agency colleague Lisa Golding. "A matter of national importance," says Lisa, who promises to reveal the truth about the firing — if Katie will help her. Lisa was never very good at truth-telling, though she swears she's changed her ways. Katie agrees to speak with her, but before she can, Lisa vanishes.
Maturity and common sense should keep Katie in the bright, normal world of her present life, away from the dark intrigues of the past. But she needs to know. As she takes just a few steps to find out, one ex-spy who might have the answers dies under suspicious circumstances. Another former agent is murdered. Could it be there's a list? If so, is Katie now on it? And who will be the next to go?
About the Author
Susan Isaacs is the author of nine novels, including Any Place I Hang My Hat; Long Time No See; and Red, White and Blue, and one nonfiction title. She is a former editor of Seventeen and a freelance political speechwriter. She currently lives on Long Island with her husband. All of her novels have been New York Times bestsellers.
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