Past Perfect: A Novel

( 12 )

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. ...
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Past Perfect: A Novel

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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?
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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.
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781469270661
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 1/1/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 1.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Isaacs
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.

Biography

Susan Isaacs, novelist, essayist and screenwriter, was born in Brooklyn and educated at Queens College. After leaving school, she worked as an editorial assistant at Seventeen magazine. In 1968, Susan married Elkan Abramowitz, a then a federal prosecutor. She became a senior editor at Seventeen but left in 1970 to stay home with her newborn son, Andrew. Three years later, she gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. During this time she freelanced, writing political speeches as well as magazine articles. Elkan became a criminal defense lawyer.

In the mid-seventies, Susan got the urge to write a novel. A year later she began working on what was to become Compromising Positions, a whodunit set on suburban Long Island. It was published in 1978 by Times Books and was chosen a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. Her second novel, Close Relations, a love story set against a background of ethnic, sexual and New York Democratic politics (thus a comedy), was published in 1980 by Lippincott and Crowell and was a selection of the Literary Guild. Her third, Almost Paradise, was published by Harper & Row in 1984, and was a Literary Guild main selection; in this work Susan used the saga form to show how the people are molded not only by their histories, but also by family fictions that supplant truth. All of Susan's novels have been New York Times bestsellers. Her fiction has been translated into thirty languages.

In 1985, she wrote the screenplay for Paramount's Compromising Positions, which starred Susan Sarandon and Raul Julia. She also wrote and co-produced Touchstone Pictures' Hello Again. The 1987 comedy starred Shelley Long and Judith Ivey.

Her fourth novel, Shining Through, set during World War II, was published by Harper & Row in 1988. Twentieth-Century Fox's film adaptation starred Michael Douglas and Melanie Griffith. Her fifth book, Magic Hour, a coming-of-middle-age novel as well as a mystery, was published in January 1991. After All These Years was published in 1993; critics lauded it for its strong and witty protagonist. Lily White came out in 1996 and Red, White and Blue in 1998. All the novels were published by HarperCollins and were main selections of the Literary Guild. In 1999, Susan's first work of nonfiction, Brave Dames and Wimpettes: What Women Are Really Doing on Page and Screen, was published by Ballantine's Library of Contemporary Thought. During 2000, she wrote a series of columns on the presidential campaign for Newsday. Long Time No See, a Book of the Month Club main selection, was published in September 2001; it was a sequel to Compromising Positions. Susan's tenth novel is Any Place I Hang My Hat (2004).

Susan Isaacs is a recipient of the Writers for Writers Award and the John Steinbeck Award. She serves as chairman of the board of Poets & Writers and is a past president of Mystery Writers of America. She is also a member of the National Book Critics Circle, The Creative Coalition, PEN, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the International Association of Crime Writers, and the Adams Round Table. She sits on the boards of the Queens College Foundation, the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association, the North Shore Child and Family Guidance Association, the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and is an active member of her synagogue. She has worked to gather support for the National Endowment of the Arts' Literature Program and has been involved in several anti-censorship campaigns. In addition to writing books, essays and films, Susan has reviewed books for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Newsday and written about politics, film and First Amendment issues. She lives on Long Island with her husband.

Biography courtesy of the author's official web site.

Good To Know

Some outtakes from our interview with Isaacs:

"My first job was wrapping shoes in a shoe store in the low-rent district of Fifth Avenue and saying ‘Thank you!' with a cheery smile. I got canned within three days for not wrapping fast enough, although I suspect that often my vague, future-novelist stare into space while thinking about sex or lunch did not give me a smile that would ring the bell on the shoe store's cheer-o-meter."

"I constantly have to fight against the New York Effect, an overwhelming urge to wear black clothes so everyone will think, Egad, isn't she chic and understated! I'm not, by nature, a black-wearing person. (I'm not, by nature, a chic person either.) I like primary colors as well as bright purple, loud chartreuse, and shocking pink. And that's just my shoes."

"I'm not a great fan of writing classes. Yes, they do help people sometimes, especially with making them write regularly. But the aspiring writer can be a delicate creature, sensitive or even oversensitive to criticism. I was that way: I still am. The problem begins with most people's natural desire to please. In a classroom situation, especially one in which the work will be read aloud or critiqued in class, the urge to write something likable or merely critic-proof can dam up your natural talent. Also, it keeps you from developing the only thing you have is a writer -- your own voice. Finally, you don't know the people in a class well enough to figure out where their criticism is coming from. A great knowledge of literature? Veiled hostility? The talent is too precious a commodity to risk handing it over to strangers."

"Writing is sometimes an art, and it certainly is a craft. But it's also a job. I go to work five or six days a week (depending how far along I am with my work-in-progress). Like most other people, there are days I would rather be lying in a hammock reading or going to a movie with a friend. But whether you're an artist or an accountant, you still have to show up at work. Otherwise, it is unlikely to get done."

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    1. Hometown:
      Sands Point, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 7, 1943
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      Honorary Doctorate, Queens College
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2007

    Not worth the effort

    I have so enjoyed Susan Issacs in the past - not so the last few novels. This book looked promising but was plodding and slow and, by the end, you didn't even care any more. She can do better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2007

    Diappointed Reader

    Story was drawn out and boring - I skipped to the end to see why she was fired,closed the book and brought it back to the library. Would not recommend book to anyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2007

    BORING

    I enjoyed Susan Isaacs past books but the past 2 have been a waste of my time. I couldn't even finish Any Place I Hang My Hat and this one I barely finished. The plot was just too political and drawn out. It just kept going on and on with her meeting with these people and trying to find out about why she was fired from the CIA. At least her husband was supportive in this effort but otherwise it was not worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    CD/abridged/Mystery?: Big disappointment. I got this for two b

    CD/abridged/Mystery?: Big disappointment. I got this for two bucks at the library sale because I had listened to another Issac's book. This book is not a thriller, as there is no real suspense and not a mystery, or maybe I stopped caring.
    It's the story of a former CIA agent, Katie, living her life as happy as possible. She was fired from the CIA without cause from her low level position. Without good references for a regular 9 to 5 job, she is now writing books and screenplays for her creation, TV show "Spy Guys". A former annoying co-worker, Lisa, calls needing a journalistic contact. She claims to have startling information that can't be told over the phone. Katie, not really having any contact like that, tries to blow Lisa off until.........Lisa says she know why Katie as fired. Dun-da-da-daa. The rest of the book is Katie trying figure out if Lisa is really missing and why.
    The Randye Kaye does a great job in the reading, but the story is lame and empty. There are too many unanswered questions at the end mixed in with complicated Eastern Bloc issues.

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  • Posted June 5, 2009

    Not a summer beach book

    This was my first and probably last book by Susan Isaacs. I bought it based on the book jacket's description of the storyline and because of the raves by other 'authors'. Big Mistake! HUGE mistake! I literally trudged through this book. I skipped parts, tried to reread, put it down, and then start over. Finally, I just skipped to what seemed to be getting close to some sort of climax, read it, and put the book down. What bothered me? First, her completely over-the-top-need for over-the-top sentence structure and language. I found it confusing, unnecessary, and down right sill confusing. I'm an English major and teach reading, yet I struggled over and over with this book's prose and style. The plot itself? I thought it might have possibly had some direction. That was until I kept reading and rereading almost entire pages of useless commentary and reflection by the main character. Bottom line, the protagonist got fired from the CIA 15 years ago. She never got over the fact that nothing was explained to her or a satisfactory answer given. So, after receiving a strange phone call from her past, she embarks on this "dangerous" mission to find out what "really happened." At no time in the book was I in suspense. At no time in this book did I feel chills run down my spine. I simply was angry at myself for buying the book in hard cover. Waste of money. Totally. The ending was corny and the "suspense" not suspenseful. Sorry, but this book is not worth your time.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2009

    Good Book

    Past Perfect was a good book. The story and characters were different and I wish it was a series with these same characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2008

    Engrossing

    I don't understand why there are so many negative reviews. I usually am not a fan of the mystery genre, but this book was engrossing, entertaining, and hilarious. I would highly recommend it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2008

    Present Imperfect

    In the past, with a few exceptions, i.e., among others, 'Any Place I Hang My Hat', I have enjoyed Susan Isaac's work for what it is - light entertaining reading. But she has struck out with her last two. This book is boring and repetitive. The protagonist's imaginging all sorts of dire things happening to her, i.e., an overworked imagination, got to be annoying after about 30 pages and the plot was lame, lame, lame. Not one likeable character in the whole novel - and, to boot, they were cardboard cut-outs rather than real people. Skip this.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2008

    HUGE YAWN!!!!!

    At first it seemed like this was going to be a promising read...sadly it went from ok to just plain boring. The writter took so long to get to the point you could really care less! I kept on reading hoping it would turn around, but it never really did.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2007

    I enjoyed it!

    I enjoyed this book! While it wasn't as great (for me) as my favorite (Shining Through), I really had a good time reading it. I thought the book was more in line with the books she's written that I really like: Lily White, Red White & Blue (I think!). The main character was believable, the story interesting, and of course, the Isaacs sense of humor (and some nice political commentary) spread throughout. If you like Susan Isaacs (heck, if you like a good, fun read), I recomend this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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