In case you need an excuse to pick up a new mystery series, I’ll give you two. First of all, Rosalie Knecht’s sleuth Vera Kelly is a smart, cynical New Yorker and CIA-trained sleuth who must navigate life in early to mid-1960s–an interesting time to be a spy and challenging time to be a woman. Secondly, it’s PRIDE month, and Vera is a lesbian, and is also forced by the times (and clauses in her employment contracts) to lead a double personal life in addition to her professional one.
In her first outing, Who is Vera Kelly?, Vera is approached and trained by the CIA. Her surveillance mission to Argentina to infiltrate local student revolutionaries and wiretap government offices for potential coup information comprises most of the novel’s action. Along the way, flashbacks into Vera’s youth show her struggles to get close to others, to fit in, and to build healthy relationships.
Book two, Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery, takes place a year later. Vera is done with the CIA, fired from her latest job because a co-worker outed her, and dumped by her girlfriend Jane. Desperate to make a living and keep her apartment, but without references to get hired, Vera opens her own private detective agency where she struggles to be taken seriously. When a Dominican couple finally hires her to track down a boy, Vera uncovers much more than a missing persons case and ends up, yet again, in another foreign country with a fake passport, reexamining her priorities.
Both books in this series are part spy thriller, part character study, and part historical fiction and will check all the boxes if you like introspective slow-burning mysteries with plenty of international action and a bit of tame romance. What’s truly great about Knecht’s two-fer (and my fingers are crossed that there will be more) is that Vera is vulnerable and unsure of her self–at work, in life and in relationships. Vera has personal problems and regret. She’s not sappy, but it’s hard for her to change. Vera Kelly is just like us.
Will she solve her cases? (Spoiler alert) Yes. Will she find true happiness? I sure hope so. Read her story and I think maybe you will, too. ~Carol