Nora Baron is back! When the CIA helps a defecting Russian actress in Venice, the op turns deadly in this white-knuckle thriller from the bestselling author of Mrs. John Doe—proving once again that, in the words of James Patterson, “Tom Savage knows the mystery novel inside and out.”
Galina Rostova, the hot new star of Moscow’s theater scene—and mistress to a powerful Russian general—has reached out to the CIA. In exchange for information vital to U.S. security, she requests asylum in America. The Company’s top pick for the mission is Nora Baron. The wife of a CIA operative, this Long Island mother and drama teacher has proven to be an asset in the field before. And as an actress herself, her cover will be convincing.
Disguised as a television news host, Nora heads to Venice, Italy, where Rostova is appearing in Chekhov’s The Seagull. As the cameras roll during their mock interview, the starlet will make her escape—or at least that’s the plan. But when the defection goes off-script, the two women are on the run from Russian agents. And when a snowstorm buries Venice, clogging the streets, waterways, and airport, the stage is set for tragedy—with several lives at risk of a final curtain.
Praise for Tom Savage’s first Nora Baron thriller, Mrs. John Doe
“This is a rare spy thriller, smart, beautifully written, and stay-up-all-night enjoyable!”—New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds
“A clever, compelling, and cinematic page-turner in which nothing is as it seems, Mrs. John Doe opens with a twist I didn’t see coming and closes with a satisfying bang.”—New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub
“Mrs. John Doe races a fictional path somewhere between Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie, a modern heroine-on-the-run spy thriller dealing with some of our time’s deadliest challenges.”—New York Times bestselling author James Grady
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Read an Excerpt
She was nearly asleep when she heard the sound again.
The first time had been just a few minutes ago, when she was switching off her brand-new e-reader. A Christmas gift from her daughter, it was perfect for sitting up in bed with the pillows propped behind her. It weighed much less than the hardcover edition of the novel she was reading, a sprawling family saga set in Ireland from the 1800s to the present. As a fifth-generation Irish-American, she was enjoying the history lesson of her people, and with the type-enlargement feature she didn’t have to wear her dreaded reading glasses.
She’d been here for nearly three hours, ever since her solitary dinner in her empty seaside home, with a winter storm outside that whistled in the bare trees and pelted the bedroom windows with icy rain. At eleven o’clock, she’d electronically bookmarked her page and shut the reader down. That’s when she’d first heard the sound, a faint tapping from a remote distance.
She’d paused a moment in her warm bed, listening, but she could hear only the wind, the sleet, and the natural creaking of the old two-story wood and stone structure at the edge of the dunes above the beach. No, she’d decided; I imagined it. It’s just the storm. It’s nothing.
She’d placed the reader on the bedside table, switched off the lamp, and pulled the sheets, blanket, and down-filled comforter up to her chin. She’d rolled onto her side in the half-empty bed—her husband was staying at the apartment in the city tonight—and drifted off, her mind a comfortable jumble of Irish dynasties and plans for the classes she’d be teaching at the university this semester, after the intercession. Christmas was over, and New Year’s; now she was looking forward to two more weeks of blissful rest and—
Tap tap tap.
She sat up in the bed and switched on the lamp. There it was again, and it wasn’t the wind or the rain. She shut her eyes and held her breath until she determined its origin. The sound was coming from downstairs.
She didn’t think; she merely reacted. First rule: Cover. In a flash, the lamp was extinguished and she was off the bed, crouching on the carpet, the bed between her and the wide-open bedroom door. Second rule: Weapon. She slid the drawer of the bedside table open and reached inside, grasping the handle of her husband’s Beretta M9. Third rule: Backup. With her other hand, she picked up her cellphone from its charging stand beside the landline. Fourth Rule: Engage. She stood and moved to the doorway, listening.
The tapping from downstairs was low and steady, and now that she concentrated on it she began to detect a pattern: Morse code. She’d learned it in summer camp as a girl—but only she and her husband knew that, as far as she was aware. Could that be her husband, tapping out a message on the front door in the middle of the night? She listened intently, translating the sounds to letters.
C-O-M-E T-O D-O-O-R Q-U-I-E-T P-L-E-A-S-E N-O P-R-O-B-L-E-M M-R B F-I-N-E
Ralph Johnson. Her husband’s assistant—but this late night visit wasn’t about her husband, apparently. No problem. Mr. B. fine.
She canceled the 9-1-1 call she’d already punched in and slipped the phone into her pocket. Her vision had adjusted to the dark, so she could see that the upstairs hallway was empty, the other doors shut. She glanced down at her clothes—a faded Broadway souvenir T-shirt from The Phantom of the Opera and the bottom half of her oldest gym suit, baggy gray sweatpants with a drawstring. She picked up her bathrobe and put it on, then pointed the gun straight in front of her with both hands as she moved out of the room and down the hall, barefoot, soft as a whisper.
Her husband had taught her how to use the Beretta; they’d practiced with it at a local target range. It was heavy in her hand and yet surprisingly manageable. She probably wouldn’t need it now, but she held on to it just the same. She wasn’t ashamed of her initial reactions to the sounds, of diving to the floor and grabbing the gun. Better safe than sorry. She’d recently learned these rules from her husband, and they were now her ingrained responses to a potential threat.
Descending the staircase in the dark, she ran the message through her head again, trying to figure it out. As she came off the bottom stair onto the wood floor of the front hall, she heard the tapping again; the message was being repeated. She stared at the oak door. The doorbell was in plain sight, not to mention a brass knocker centered in the wood, so why was Ralph—if it really was Ralph—tapping Morse code? And where had he come from? She hadn’t heard a car in the driveway.
She approached the door, careful not to stand directly behind it. From the side, she reached out with her free hand and switched on the porch light. The curtained window beside her lit up, but she didn’t hazard a look outside—that would make her visible, vulnerable, a potential target if this was some sort of trap. She almost called through the door before she remembered the tapped instructions: Quiet, please. Grasping the gun in one hand, she tapped softly on the door with the other. V-O-C-A-L I-D.
The male voice that replied through the door was soft but clear. “It’s Ralph, ma’am. Ralph Johnson. I work for your husband.”
She relaxed. She’d never met Ralph Johnson in the seven years she’d known of him, but she’d spoken on the phone with him many times, and this was definitely his voice. She switched on the front hall light, disabled the alarm, unlocked the two locks, released the dead bolt, and opened the door. A tall, thin young black man stood there in a gray parka and gray wool cap, and he wasn’t alone. Behind him was an older, imposingly handsome man, also African-American, in a gray wool coat and a fedora. Both men were wet and shivering. Coats, hats, gloves, even the older man’s close-cropped hair: all gray. Oh yes, she thought, these men are the real deal. Gray was the preferred color of their profession.
“My husband isn’t here,” she told them. “But I suppose you know that.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Ralph whispered. “We know where he is. This is Mr. Green, your husband’s boss. Mine, too. He doesn’t want your husband. He wants to talk to you, ma’am.”
She looked at Ralph, then at his employer. She peered out at the rain and the wet landscape, then back at the two men. They were staring down at her hand. She followed their gaze to the Beretta and produced a weak smile.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ll put this away, and—“
Ralph raised a gloved finger to his lips, reached into a coat pocket, and produced a boxy silver object somewhat larger than a cellphone.
“Keep your voice down, please,” he murmured as he stepped silently past her into the house. He moved off through her downstairs rooms, holding the device up in front of him.
She looked back at the other man on the porch. He was studying her appearance, and she wondered what he made of what he saw: a tall, slender, forty-nine-year-old white woman with green eyes and shoulder-length chestnut hair, in a full-length blue terry robe, barefoot, clutching a big black gun. She opened the door wider and waved him inside. As soon as he’d passed by her, she shut the door, relocked and bolted it, switched the porch light off and the alarm back on, and turned to face her distinguished, unexpected guest.
“Hello, Mr. Green,” she whispered to the director of the New York City field station of the CIA. “I’m Nora Baron.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Nora Baron is asked by her husband's employer.. the CIA to help a Russian actress who is requesting asylum in the United States. Nora has helped the CIA before and they think she is perfect for the job. Nora is not only married to a CIA agent, she's a drama teacher and a mom. Acting is something she does very well. The woman requesting asylum is the mistress of a powerful Russian general. Pillow talk has put her in the know about a lot of his secrets .. and she's willing to sell him out. The plan to get her out of Russia seems to be simple, almost too easy. Things go wrong and the two women find themselves being hunted by Russian agents. And the blizzard doesn't help anything. Lives hang in the balance. I confess ... I don't usually like spy novels and read very few of them. However, this one drew me in from the beginning. The characters are intriguing, sometimes even humorous. I love the interaction between Nora and her husband. There is action and excitement on almost every page. Quite an enjoyable read. It was nice to step out of my comfort zone when it comes to reading. Many thanks to the author / Random House Publishing Group - Alibi / Netgalley for the digital copy. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
An intelligent and witty suspense, with international implications. Nora is asked to join the CIA on a temporary basis by her husband's employer, in order to help extricate a Russian actress who is in danger. The stories don't quite match up, and the teams of people working both sides make this an interesting and thought provoking mystery. The characters are original and entertaining, each bringing their unique flavor to the story and the mission at hand. The plot and the writing itself is inventive, and the mystery creative. Definitely one I'd recommend! *I received an arc from the publisher through NetGalley for an honest review
This is the second in the series involving this couple and this time, actress Nora Baron is called on to basically Argo a Russian actress out from under her traveling theater group while in Italy. Galina Rostova seems scared of her high ranking Russian military boyfriend and all involved hope helping this woman defect will lead to good intel. Nora is surrounded by some great characters in their small production crew. I liked the youthfulness and "cool" that Patch brought to the group. And once in Venice, Nora's husband, Jeff a CIA operative himself, lends a hand slightly off the books. There's even a Mother Abbess who would give any of the nuns in the Sound of Music a run for their money. This was a great read, the story kept pace with the reveals as it went along.
I loved this book! It's a well crafted spy mystery/thriller with a bit of cat and mouse in it. I loved Nora and how she viewed the world through the lens of an actress that is almost hyper aware of her surroundings. Nora is a former actress and current acting teacher that is asked to assist the CIA with an extraction in Venice. Nora's husband is a CIA officer, but he isn't tasked with this assignment as the person to be extracted is a well known Russian actress. The bulk of the book is set in Venice and I loved the author's descriptions of the city. He made me feel as though I was there and structured it in such a way that the city almost became a character in its own right. Fans of the genre will love this book. While its the first book I've read by this author, it won't be the last - I've added him to my must read authors' list.
It was the middle of the night. There was a strange morse code tapping at the front door. Nora goes to answer the door with a loaded gun in her hand. The CIA are there. So starts another exciting adventure for Nora Baron. This book is the second in the series. I read the first one, Mrs. John Doe, and liked it but I have read better. I decided to give Nora another chance and I'm glad I did. This book is really good. Nora and the other characters are well developed and the plot is very exciting. There are enough lies being told that it keeps you guessing as to who to believe. It held my interest from beginning to end and I finished in one day. I received this ebook free from NetGalley for an honest review.
The Woman Who Knew Too Much is the second book in Tom Savage's Nora Baron mystery series. This story takes place about 18 months after the page turning Mrs. John Doe. Late at night Nora hears tapping which she soon identifies as Morse Code. In following the sound, she arrives at her front door to find her husband's assistant, Ralph Johnson, and his boss, Hamilton Green, and they are there to offer Nora a special assignment should she choose to accept it. The special assignment is to orchestrate an elaborate ruse to assist a famous Russian actress escape her State Theater Company and defect to the United States. She is promising earthshaking evidence of what her high placed paramour is planning to the U.S. It is up to Nora, in the guise of journalist Joan Simmons, and her cohorts Frances Camillo, a New York wardrobe expert and wife of a federal government official, Patrick "Patch" Sullivan, a film grad student at NYU and Nora's daughter Dana's current fellow to carry out the plan. When they arrive in Venice, the rest of their group comes together with Mario Naldi and his son-in-law, Paolo Ventura, both with a local private security agency and licensed to carry concealed weapons. With the group together, the next step is to follow through with the plans set in motion by Hamilton Green's office. As Sound Byte Productions, they were conducting interviews with Galina Rostova as she and her theater company toured Europe in the Russian play, "The Seagull." While Nora followed through on her end, her husband Jeff Baron would be watching from the shadows to keep her safe. As the story unfolds, Nora begins to unravel Galina's story, piecing together truth from fiction, and realizing that Galina's acting abilities extend to off-stage. The biggest challenge for Nora is to put the,pieces together before the extraction actually occurs. Fast paced with well drawn characters and a beautiful Venice backdrop, The Woman Who Knew Too Much is a nice follow up to Mrs. John Doe. I do recommend this book.
An International Fake News thriller “The Woman Who Knew Too Much” by Tom Savage is an international thriller. It has everything a good thriller needs -- murder, deceit, spies, pretend spies, double-dealing, tragic mistakes, and tons of secrets. It involves the defection of a Russian actress who is to be “extracted” in Venice, Italy by a fake TV news crew from the U.S. headed not by a CIA agent, but by the wife of an agent who wonders just what this actress could possibly know that is so valuable. The action is non-stop, and plot has lots of twists, turns, and detours all on the way to a surprise ending. There are lots of nice geographic details about Venice as a bonus. “The Woman Who Knew Too Much” is really a “thriller-lite” because while there are chills, thrills, anxiety, stress, and even murder, it won’t give you a stress-induced headache because of the blood, gore, and guts -- just a regular nail-biting headache from speculating on what comes next. Don’t start this book if you have plans for the next few days, because you will have trouble putting it down. I received a copy of “The Woman Who Knew Too Much” in exchange for my review, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have not read “Mrs. John Doe,” the first book in the Nora Baron series, but it is not necessary to have read the first book in order to enjoy this one. There are references throughout the book that fill in any relevant details from the first book without wasting pages and pages rehashing the first book.
A fast, fun read full of spies, Russians and the city of Venice. It was well plotted and colorful enough to have the reader visualize the movie that could be made of it. Great fun reading. Thanks to Net Galley and Alibi for an ARC for an honest review.
As the second book in a series, there is no let down as the action continues. Venice is a wonderful site for the action, and the environment adds to the suspense. The characters are all interesting, and the suspense is heightened as more is revealed about each of them. While the ending is foreshadowed, it takes a while for all the threads to be pulled. I'm looking forward to more in this series.
I really liked the first Nora Baron book, however, I had a hard time getting into this one. It seemed a little hokey at first for me. After a while, I finally got into it and it was more like the Tom Savage that I'm used to. I still remember the first book that I read by him - A Penny for the Hangman - that was so good! The ending of this book was air fist pumping good! I loved it. I love to see the bad guys get theirs. So instead of the 3 stars I was seeing at the beginning, I opted for the extra star that the ending definitely deserved. Like I said, slow at first, but it did come around and I found it entertaining, intriguing and mysterious. Thanks to Random House/Alibi for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.