Who Is Vera Kelly?

Who Is Vera Kelly?

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...

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Title:Who Is Vera Kelly?
Author:Rosalie Knecht
Rating:

Who Is Vera Kelly? Reviews

  • Rachel

    This is not your mother’s spy novel (no offense, moms). Rosalie Knecht is the knockout champion of suspenseful stories, and she really packs a page-turning punch with WHO IS VERA KELLY? Her literary footwork is impressive, deftly weaving political intrigue and heartfelt drama into a one-two knockout that will leave you dazzled.

    Who is Vera Kelly? She is a CIA spy whose latest assignment is to monitor the growing political unrest in Argentina and to sniff out any KGB activity. She finds herself e

    This is not your mother’s spy novel (no offense, moms). Rosalie Knecht is the knockout champion of suspenseful stories, and she really packs a page-turning punch with WHO IS VERA KELLY? Her literary footwork is impressive, deftly weaving political intrigue and heartfelt drama into a one-two knockout that will leave you dazzled.

    Who is Vera Kelly? She is a CIA spy whose latest assignment is to monitor the growing political unrest in Argentina and to sniff out any KGB activity. She finds herself entangled with a group of student activists, and as the situation turns haywire, Vera starts to doubt both her allies and her chances of surviving this mission.

    But: who IS Vera Kelly? The best spy is one with no attachments, and Vera Kelly is an island, separated from her past by an ocean of estrangement. Knecht gracefully balances Kelly’s independent streak with a hunger for connection. Her writing really shines when she portrays the turmoil of a queer person yearning for a space to exist, both with the object of her desire and in a society that actively rejects her existence. Knecht skillfully draws parallels between the life of disguise and deception necessitated by Vera’s career and the double life she leads as a queer woman exploring her desires in closed spaces.

    Though Kelly’s mission comprises most of the novel’s action, her interpersonal relationships and character development are just as compelling. You know when the written dialogue is so good that you can see it happening before your eyes? Knecht really nails her characters’ personalities and motivations, and I read most of this book as if a movie was playing out in my head.

    A spy novel that refuses to fit neatly into that genre, WHO IS VERA KELLY? is as sexy as it is brilliant, and as endearing as it is adrenaline-pumping. The novel leaves no question about Knecht’s freakishly-good talents, and her ability to write an earnest narrative with enough complexity to merit at least a few re-reads. If WHO IS VERA KELLY? is any indication of what’s to come, I can’t wait to see what Knecht gifts us with next.

  • Navessa

    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 the 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 t

    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 the 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

    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.

  • Jessica

    I received this book for free from the publisher (Tin House Books) in exchange for an honest review.

    I give this book 3.5 stars which rounds up to 4.

    This book is a slow burn. It’s not your typical spy novel. It’s on the slow side and there isn’t much action. I was expecting some twists and turns to the story, but that wasn’t what I got. It was a pretty straightforward plot. As a spy novel, it was a bit lackluster. I also felt that the spy parts could have been developed more because all the eve

    I received this book for free from the publisher (Tin House Books) in exchange for an honest review.

    I give this book 3.5 stars which rounds up to 4.

    This book is a slow burn. It’s not your typical spy novel. It’s on the slow side and there isn’t much action. I was expecting some twists and turns to the story, but that wasn’t what I got. It was a pretty straightforward plot. As a spy novel, it was a bit lackluster. I also felt that the spy parts could have been developed more because all the events seemed to move at lightning speed. I would have loved to seen more of Vera’s day to day life as a spy and more of her interactions with her fellow students.

    As a work of literary fiction, this book was more successful. I actually enjoyed the flashbacks to her youth a lot more than the spy parts. I liked unraveling who Vera was and how she got to be the person she is. I particularly liked the parts about her sexuality because it shed light on how different things were for the LGBT community back in the 50’s and 60’s.

    Overall, I was a bit underwhelmed by the spy aspect, but was satisfied with Vera’s character development.

  • Janelle • She Reads with Cats

    Thank you so much to Tin House for providing my free copy of WHO IS VERA KELLY? by Rosalie Knecht - all opinions are my own.

    I really enjoyed this book! And can we just take a moment to admire this cover?!! It’s PERFECT and really showcases the story inside! I really loved the character Vera. So much so, I would love to see this as a series. It’s not a typical spy novel but rather more of a short piece of literary fiction about a spy. The book is short with chapters that alternate between past an

    Thank you so much to Tin House for providing my free copy of WHO IS VERA KELLY? by Rosalie Knecht - all opinions are my own.

    I really enjoyed this book! And can we just take a moment to admire this cover?!! It’s PERFECT and really showcases the story inside! I really loved the character Vera. So much so, I would love to see this as a series. It’s not a typical spy novel but rather more of a short piece of literary fiction about a spy. The book is short with chapters that alternate between past and present.

    In the 1960’s, Vera is a CIA agent stationed in Argentina. Her assignment is to infiltrate a group of student radicals and wiretap a congressman. A betrayal leaves her stranded during the wake of a coup, so she must use whatever skills necessary to survive.

    My favorite aspect of the book are the chapters about Vera’s past! I just love a good backstory! I highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction with an espionage edge!

  • Lata

    Not a James Bondian spy story at all, thank goodness. Vera Kelly is in Argentina in 1966 to conduct surveillance. With her cover as a Canadian student, she encounters other students at night, and by day listens to recordings, passing on translated transcriptions and other bits of information to her CIA handler. Vera comes off as quiet and conscientious in her work, while the various students and others she meets appear to like her.

    Rosalie Knecht gives us an interesting portrayal of a young woman

    Not a James Bondian spy story at all, thank goodness. Vera Kelly is in Argentina in 1966 to conduct surveillance. With her cover as a Canadian student, she encounters other students at night, and by day listens to recordings, passing on translated transcriptions and other bits of information to her CIA handler. Vera comes off as quiet and conscientious in her work, while the various students and others she meets appear to like her.

    Rosalie Knecht gives us an interesting portrayal of a young woman working for the CIA, and insight into the young Vera Kelly. The author alternates between Vera's present in 1966 (pre- and post-coup), and her past in 1955, when we see a confused, deeply unhappy young woman trying to understand herself and her feelings for her closest friend, and her abusive relationship with her mother. I liked the way the author alternated between the past and present in successive chapters, so we could see each major step in Vera's life that brought her to a dingy room, carefully transcribing conversations of people the CIA was interested in as part of the CIA's efforts to destabilize and profit from the situation.

    The author leaves the ending somewhat open, and while there doesn't appear to be any further Vera story on the horizon, I'd like to read more about this character.

  • Scott S.

    is an interesting and original little historical espionage novel, with its chapters alternating between the main character's presence during the lead-up to the Argentine Revolution in mid-1966 AND her problematic teen years in conventional suburban Maryland of the late 50's.

    You see, Ms. Kelly is a CIA operative (though not in a James Bond or Jason Bourne sense) working solo in Buenos Aires with a dual purpose - observe / infiltrate the local student revolutionaries as well as

    is an interesting and original little historical espionage novel, with its chapters alternating between the main character's presence during the lead-up to the Argentine Revolution in mid-1966 AND her problematic teen years in conventional suburban Maryland of the late 50's.

    You see, Ms. Kelly is a CIA operative (though not in a James Bond or Jason Bourne sense) working solo in Buenos Aires with a dual purpose - observe / infiltrate the local student revolutionaries as well as 'bugging' government offices for potential coup information. However, she is also gay (back in the pre-Stonewall era) and flashbacks detail how she fell into the job after her life went awry.

    There is one particular moment, late in the story, that was the most quietly heartbreaking (for both the character

    the reader, if the story has you hooked) fictional scene I've read this year.

    I think this book has cinematic possibilities, and I would like to see Jennifer Lawrence (with dark hair, a la

    ) - also while she is still under 30 years old - in the title role.

  • Lauren

    Instead of the "edge of your seat" action spy thriller, this one is a more literary and character-driven spy story. The narrative moves swiftly between two time periods: 1950s Maryland/New Jersey, USA and 1960s Buenos Aires, Argentina. Vera's childhood and youth are troubled, and she spends time in juvenile detention centers and boarding schools. Later, in the 1960s timeline, we follow her covert intelligence work in Argentina - posing as a Canadian university student, her mission is to look for

    Instead of the "edge of your seat" action spy thriller, this one is a more literary and character-driven spy story. The narrative moves swiftly between two time periods: 1950s Maryland/New Jersey, USA and 1960s Buenos Aires, Argentina. Vera's childhood and youth are troubled, and she spends time in juvenile detention centers and boarding schools. Later, in the 1960s timeline, we follow her covert intelligence work in Argentina - posing as a Canadian university student, her mission is to look for "red" influence of KGB recruitment amongst the university community.

    Both storylines had strong plots - we learn about Vera's identity as a queer woman, thereby learning more about that scene at the time, which was fascinating. We also learn how Vera was recruited to the CIA, and the story loops back to her surveillance before the 1966 coup d'etat and military takeover in Argentina.

    I originally came across this book while researching books by Argentine writers in translation, or set in Argentina. Rosalie Knecht, while writing her own novels, is also a translator and has translated a well-known Argentine writer (

    ). I liked what Knecht did here, and I read in an interview that she plans to write more of Vera's world... I'll be picking those up if it happens!

  • Ace

    At first this was a confusing mash of back and forward of Vera's younger years and her current presence in Argentina, as Anna, and by about half way through I wasn't sure I was keeping up with the politics in government and within the student community. It was losing me, but then the June 1966 coup occured and it suddenly settled and the Vera and Anna threads started to weave together quite tightly and I was gripped until the end.

    3 stars

  • Erin Glover

    It’s a fun read. In fact, I read most of it in one sitting. But I closed the book and said out loud, “Nah, never happen.” All the elements are there. It should be a really good book. It just isn’t.

    It’s 1966. Vera is quirky and shy. Kind of the tech nerd type. She’s in Buenos Aires pretending to be Canadian and a college student while engaging in suspect activities for a suspect entity. She’s mysterious about her sexual preference. Pretty juicy so far.

    The parties she’s surveilling could be KGB

    It’s a fun read. In fact, I read most of it in one sitting. But I closed the book and said out loud, “Nah, never happen.” All the elements are there. It should be a really good book. It just isn’t.

    It’s 1966. Vera is quirky and shy. Kind of the tech nerd type. She’s in Buenos Aires pretending to be Canadian and a college student while engaging in suspect activities for a suspect entity. She’s mysterious about her sexual preference. Pretty juicy so far.

    The parties she’s surveilling could be KGB agents. Or they could be regular college students, one of whom is either bi or lesbian.

    Her contact back in the states, Gerry, is unreliable. We don’t even discover who he is until 75% of the way through the novel.

    Backing up, it’s 1957 in affluent Chevy Chase, Maryland. Vera is a teenager and her domineering mother has forbidden her from seeing her best friend in the world. Vera might even be in love with Joanne. Vera does some bad things like overdosing on sleep medicine and stealing her mother’s car after her mother hits her. But her mother’s responses are outrageous. Vera leaves home. After a few dead-end jobs, she ends up with the mystery job in Argentina.

    Knecht alternates chapters between her teen years and the time she spends in Argentina. This technique works well for the pacing, keeping it moving.

    Something is off-kilter. Maybe it’s the structure of the novel. Maybe it’s too unbelievable. Vera is likeable. Maybe that’s the problem. She’s too likeable for the job she has.

    I had high hopes for Who Is Vera Kelly. I want to read a novel in this genre with a strong female protagonist. Vera Kelly doesn’t work well for the part. Maybe another author can take auditions.

  • Kathleen

    The swirling politics of Argentina in 1966 attracted the CIA, the KGB, and various Argentinian revolutionaries. In June 1966, a coup headed by General Juan Carlos Ongania was successful and resulted in him becoming the de facto president. He was opposed to both liberal democracy and to Communism.

    Knecht has used this chaotic period in Argentina’s history as the backdrop for Vera Kelly’s CIA spying activities. Vera’s cover story is that she is a Canadian student. The CIA has identified a group of

    The swirling politics of Argentina in 1966 attracted the CIA, the KGB, and various Argentinian revolutionaries. In June 1966, a coup headed by General Juan Carlos Ongania was successful and resulted in him becoming the de facto president. He was opposed to both liberal democracy and to Communism.

    Knecht has used this chaotic period in Argentina’s history as the backdrop for Vera Kelly’s CIA spying activities. Vera’s cover story is that she is a Canadian student. The CIA has identified a group of students they suspect as being aligned with the KGB. Her job is to discover what they are up to. Vera is adept at installing ‘bugs’ and listening to conversations—all while pretending to be a typical university student.

    But Vera has been adept at hiding her real self for quite some time. She has struggled with her own Lesbian desires and hiding them from others for years.

    Knecht takes her time setting up the story—Vera’s backstory in the form of flashbacks, the various CIA handlers, and the students who seem to have revolution on their minds. Eventually the coup happens, bombs are discovered, and Vera is left in-country by the CIA, even though her handler has betrayed her. Fortunately, Vera is a woman who ‘thinks on her feet’.

    It is fun to be reading about a female spy for a change, despite Knecht's uneven writing.

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