Past Perfect: A Novel by Susan Isaacs | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Past Perfect

Past Perfect

2.5 12
by Susan Isaacs
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

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

Overview

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?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

"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

"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

Ex-CIA agent Katie Schottland is now a successful spy novelist, but she still gets nostalgic about her glory days back at the Agency. When an old co-worker sends out an alarm, Katie jumps at the chance to reopen her (purloined) files. It doesn't take a super-snooper, however, to discover that several of her old Iron Curtain charges have become corpses. These unexplained homicides send our reactivated operative off on a mad chase to save her other associates. Susan Isaacs handles this diverting thriller with consummate adroitness.
Claudia Deane
Isaacs is so good at what she does that her deservedly loyal fans are bound to be charmed.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
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. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
New York novelist Katie Schottland is the TV scriptwriter of an espionage show based on her book, Spy Guys. She is also happily married to Adam, a pathologist at the Bronx Zoo, and is the mother of precocious ten-year-old Nicky. A high achiever and more than gainfully employed, Katie has nonetheless never gotten over the shame of being fired from her first job with the CIA. Fifteen years earlier, following her graduation from college, she worked for two years as a writer/analyst for the agency's Eastern European division when she was suddenly and unceremoniously removed from the premises without explanation. Katie's feelings surface anew when she receives a blast-from-the-past phone call from former colleague Lisa Golding, who begs for Katie's help, promises in exchange to tell her why she was removed, and then promptly disappears. From that point forward, Katie's life takes on the intrigue of her TV characters as she searches for Lisa and the answer to her own personal mystery. Filled with well-rounded characters and good humor, this novel, like Isaacs's previous works (e.g., Any Place I Hang My Hat), could be a best seller. Recommended for large fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/06.]-Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A faltering comic spy caper from Isaacs (Any Place I Hang My Hat, 2004, etc.). Soon-to-be-40 Katie Schottland has a pretty terrific life in her native New York: a great apartment in a pre-war building, a devoted husband in Adam, a vet at the Bronx Zoo, and ten-year-old Nicky, a pudgy kid with a heart of gold. To top it off, she has an enviable job as the sole writer for Spy Guys, a not too awful cable show based on her only novel. But when she gets a mysterious call from ex-colleague Lisa Golding, something about national security and the fate of the nation, all that contentment evaporates. Fifteen years ago, Katie and Lisa worked at the CIA, Katie turning out reports on the crumbling Soviet Bloc. She loved everything about her job until she was unceremoniously fired, escorted from the building by guards and blackballed from finding another job. Lisa's call offers the ultimate bait-the classified information explaining why Katie was ditched. But when Lisa disappears, Katie becomes involved in a CIA conspiracy more complicated than anything she could have come up with for the cable show: Three East German officials were brought to the U.S. courtesy of the CIA just before the collapse of their government. Set up in businesses and given new identities, they benefited from quite a lot of starter money. Why such special treatment? And why are they being murdered? Katie begins traveling the country in search of answers, having a bit more adventure than she bargained for. Isaacs' thriller is complicated enough to keep you guessing until the end, but the book's momentum is halted by the slightly neurotic narrator, who enjoys the occasional tangent right at the climax of suspense. A misstep forthe usually entertaining author.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743463140
Publisher:
Pocket Star
Publication date:
04/28/2009
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.78(w) x 4.26(h) x 1.13(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Oh God, I wish I had a weapon! Naturally, I don't. Of course, if life in any way resembled Spy Guys, the espionage TV show I write, I'd pull off the top of my pen and with one stab inflict a fatal wound, and save my life. Except no pen: just two pieces of chewed Dentyne Ice spearmint wrapped in a receipt for sunscreen and panty liners.

When I began making notes on what I naively thought of as Katie's Big Adventure, I hadn't a clue that my life would be on the line. How could I? This would be my story, and every ending I'd ever written had been upbeat. But in the past few weeks I've learned that "happily ever after" is simply proof of my lifelong preference for fantasy over reality.

Unfortunately, fantasy will not get me out of this mess. So what am I supposed to do now? First, calm down. Hard to do when I'm crouched behind a toolshed, up to my waist in insanely lush flora that's no doubt crawling with fauna.

It's so dark. No moon, no stars: the earth could be the only celestial object in a black universe. And it's hot. Even at this late hour, there is no relief from the heat. My shirt is sweat-drenched and so sucked against my skin it's a yellow-and-white-striped epidermis.

I cannot let myself dwell on the fact that my danger is doubled because I'm so out of my element. Me, Total Manhattan Sushi Woman, cowering behind a toolshed in fried pork rinds country with unspeakable creatures from the insect and worm worlds who think my sandaled feet are some new interstate.

Adam, my husband, would probably be able to identify the nocturnal bird in a nearby tree that refuses to shut up, the one whose hoarse squawks sound like "Shit! Shit! Shit!" Adam is a vet. A veterinary pathologist at the Bronx Zoo, to be precise. Were something that feels like a rat's tail to brush his toes in the dark, he wouldn't want to shriek in horror and vomit simultaneously, like I do. He'd just say, Hmm, a Norway rat. Adam is close to fearless.

I, of course, am not. If I concentrate on what's happening here in the blackness, the slide of something furry against my anklebone, the sponginess of the ground beneath the thin, soaked soles of my sandals, a sudden Bump! against my cheek, then something, whatever it is (bat? blood-swollen insect?) ricocheting off, I will literally go mad, and trust me, I know the difference between literally and figuratively. I'll howl like a lunatic until brought back to sanity by the terrible realization that I've given away my precise location to that nut job who is out there, maybe only a hundred feet away, stalking me.

Feh! Something just landed on the inner part of my thigh. As I brush it off, its gross little feet try to grip me.

Don't scream! Calm down. Taoist breathing method: Listen to your breathing. Easy. Don't force it. Just concentrate. Listen. All right: three reasonably calm breaths. What am I going to do? How am I going to survive? Will I ever see Adam again? And our son, Nicky?

What used to be my real life back in New York seems as far away as some Blondie concert I went to when I was fifteen. All right, what the hell was I originally thinking I had to do here behind the toolshed? Oh, try to remember what I wrote in the journal I began a day or two after that first disturbing phone call. Maybe something I'd unthinkingly jotted down could help me now, or could at least allow me to delude myself that this episode will be yet another of my...and they lived happily ever after.

Copyright © 2007 by Susan Isaacs

From Past Perfect

"You want to right a past wrong. Has it occurred to you that your going back to the past is a means of reconnecting with the Agency, of giving yourself an adventure? So your life can resemble one of your television shows?"

Not bad. I wished I had the rocking chair, because I could have gone back and forth on that one for a while. I wasn't my mother's daughter for nothing. I just sat quietly though. Finally I said, "It's a thoughtful question. I wish I could give you a definitive 'Absolutely not!' I don't know. I don't think I want actual adventure. If I did, I would have applied to the clandestine service when I applied to the CIA. But if I had, I'm sure I couldn't have passed the psychological tests, because I don't have what it takes. I don't get thrills from danger, I just get frightened. Look, Mr. Harlow, I've never even been on a roller coaster." I was about to say the only way I'd ever get on one would be at gunpoint, but I decided to skip it.

"Fair enough. And you can call me Jacques."

"So where did you get the name?"

"It was my father's." My buddy Jacques was not overly generous in the information department. "Are you called Katherine?"

"Katie. Kate if you're the monosyllabic type. I want to clear something up though. It's not as if I spent the last fifteen years rubbing my hands together and plotting how to get justice from the Agency." I made a big deal about swallowing because I wasn't sure of the wisdom of telling all, or even telling some, to Jacques. On the other hand, there was no other hand. He was my last and therefore best hope. "A few weeks ago," I began, "I got a call from someone I had known at the Agency. Lisa Golding."

I looked at him long enough until he said, "Never heard of her." He stood and walked around and leaned on the back of the chair which seemed, somehow, to know not to rock. "I'm assuming that's not the end of the story. Somehow this led you to want to speak to someone familiar with the situation in East Germany in '89."

"Yes." I considered getting up too, but the back of my chair was low enough that if I rested my arms on it, I'd look like Quasimodo. So sitting there, I told him how Lisa had offered to tell me why I was fired in exchange for my help, and then gave him a three-word character sketch-amusing, talented, untruthful-and a description of her job. Since I wasn't about to tell him of my notes down in the basement, in the Crypt, I said: "I spent days trying to remember what I'd worked on with her. The only thing I could come up with that might still have meaning was..." I stopped for a moment, then said, "I'd feel better if you swore to me you weren't recording this."

"Swear to you? It's a damn good thing you didn't apply to clandestine services. You take somebody at their word?"

"Didn't you ever decide to trust someone?" I asked him.

Copyright © 2007 by Susan Isaacs

Meet the Author

Susan Isaacs is the author of thirteen novels, including As Husbands Go, Any Place I Hang My Hat, Long Time No See, and Compromising Positions. She is a former editor of Seventeen and a freelance political speechwriter. She lives on Long Island with her husband. All of her novels have been New York Times bestsellers.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Sands Point, New York
Date of Birth:
December 7, 1943
Place of Birth:
Brooklyn, New York
Education:
Honorary Doctorate, Queens College
Website:
http://www.susanisaacs.com

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >