Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht
New York City, 1962. Vera Kelly is struggling to make rent and blend into the underground gay scene in Greenwich Village. She’s working night shifts at a radio station when her quick wits, sharp tongue, and technical skills get her noticed by a recruiter for the CIA.
Next thing she knows she’s in Argentina, tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of student activists in Buenos Aires. As Vera becomes more and more enmeshed with the young radicals, the fragile local government begins to split at the seams. When a betrayal leaves her stranded in the wake of a coup, Vera learns war makes for strange and unexpected bedfellows, and she’s forced to take extreme measures to save herself.
An exhilarating page turner and perceptive coming-of-age story, WHO IS VERA KELLY? introduces an original, wry and whip-smart female spy for the twenty-first century.
“Call the State Department. I’m CIA.”
Ooooh, this was good. Part spy thriller, part character study, and part historical fiction.
This book is told through a delicate interweaving of past and present. The past chapters chronicle Vera’s youth, her troubled relationship with her mother, her brief stint in juvie, her sexual awakening, and the work that eventually leads to her recruitment by the CIA. The present chapters take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, circa 1966, in the months prior to the Argentine Revolution – which led to the country’s period of a military-dominated authoritarian-beurocratic state.
If you go into this expecting full-blown James Bond, you’ll be disappointed. It doesn’t just jump right into the action; it sets the stage first. The first 40% is mostly made up of stake-out mode and flashback chapters.
That’s not to say they’re boring. I flew through them. It’s obvious Knecht did her research here, and because of this, that awesome thing happened to me where I forgot that I was reading and simply felt like I was living this story through Vera’s eyes.
Her specialty is electronics, namely wiretapping. When she first arrives in country, her contact helps her get a bug placed in the vice president’s office and sets her up with a room to listen from. The rest is up to her. She’s tasked with posing as a student, and ordered to work against the KGB influence she’s been told is enthralling some of the up and coming Marxists at the university.
Vera is a really relatable character. This is her first big solo mission, so you’re right there with her when it comes to nerves and anticipation while you’re reading.
Around the halfway mark things start to go sideways. A military coup, betrayal, entrapment, followed by Vera’s wild attempt to escape the country alongside the students she was spying on.
I can’t recommend this enough for anyone looking for a women-driven, realistic, spy story.
From what I can tell, this isn’t a series, and I’m a bit bummed about that. Because I would love to read novel after novel about Vera’s exploits, and watch her really come into her own as a CIA agent.
ONE CAN ONLY HOPE THE AUTHOR SEES THIS REVIEW AND COMES THROUGH FOR ME.