Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews


Past Perfect by Susan Isaacs








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In Susan Isaacs’ new novel, Past Perfect, protagonist Katie Schottland still wonders why she was fired from the CIA more than a dozen years ago. When a former co-worker calls in distress and offers to meet and explain the reason for the firing, Katie leaps at the chance to close this chapter of her life, and becomes embroiled in unraveling a mystery. Here’s an excerpt, from the beginning of Chapter 6, pp. 50-52:


In the cab going home, I had a quick fantasy about sticking my key into the lock and Adam pulling open the apartment door. Definitely hot: his shirt would be open a couple of buttons, his hair mussed from running his hands through it as he anguished over having been so tough on me in the morning. That reverie evaporated within ten seconds of opening the door.

I was hit with the familiar aroma of microwaved popcorn. In the hallway, the dogs, who’d formed themselves into their usual inverted V, were snoring outside our bedroom door. Inside, Adam was asleep, though blessedly silent. Not only did he not snore, he barely moved. Despite his size, our summer comforter was undisturbed, still tightly tucked into the mattress. As always, he lay on his back looking swad­dled. Every once in a while he turned onto his side, but his night moves were mostly smiles playing over his lips and the sleep-time erections pushing against the tight covers.

I went into the bathroom for my nightly business: toilet, hand wash, contact lens removal, de-makeup/tone/moisturize, floss/brush. How odd, I decided as I did an anti-garlic tongue brush with my Sonicare and almost choked as it slipped and hit my uvula, that someone like me, the anxiety queen, a woman given to imagining her own death from a freak accident on even the jolliest occasion (like catching fire while leaning over to blow out the candles on a birthday cake), would marry a man who appeared to be without a nervous system.

All right, that wasn’t fair. My husband was capable of emotion: he loved Nicky, me, the dogs, his family, my parents, probably in that order, although there were times I sensed I’d moved temporarily to number one and Nicky had dropped down to two. But Adam defi­nitely wasn’t given to huge hugs and shouts of I love you! His wak­ing hours were an extension of his sleeping hours: small smiles and, for me alone, erections.

Well, I assumed they were for me alone. Of course, I’d heard the usual marriage horror stories: They always had fabulous sex—not just once a week—and then, out of the clear blue sky, he announced he’d been having an affair with one of the assistants at the Gymboree on West Seventy-third and wanted to marry her! But I believed in my husband. From high school on, Adam had had only one relation­ship at a time. Whatever wild oats he possessed, he didn’t sow them around.

Adam-wise, it was bad timing that the Lisa Golding call came on the very day Nicky was leaving for camp. Up to that point, I’d been viewing the summer as a chance to rekindle my marriage flame. Not so much our sex life. That had actually been good all along, both of us needing more than the national average. Also, for a guy from

Wyoming, a state I’d never viewed as a hotbed of erotic creativity, Adam was extremely inventive, to say nothing of uninhibited. Maybe it was his nature, or perhaps during his years in veterinary school he’d picked up everything there was to know about mammalian anatomy and physiology, and to that he’d added the tricks he learned watching humping wildebeests.

What needed rekindling was our life together. When Nicky was away on a school trip or at a friend’s, our dinner talk was less conver­sation than alternating monologues. Adam would tell me about his day. Knowing him to be a man of few words, I’d pepper him with questions, just to keep him going. When there was nothing more to say about zoo matters, it would be my turn. I had a lot more to tell, since I was a storyteller by trade and blabby by nature. From Oliver’s rages over letters from Bible Belters complaining of clinging clothes that outlined both cheeks of Dani Barber’s butt to what was going on with the makeup lady’s love life, Adam heard it all. Any leftover moments got filled with politics, family news, or great issues like, should we go see Doubt with the Cassidys, who always want to sit in the cheapest seats?

Maybe this is what happened to all couples after fifteen years together. Could we have been like this right from the start? Were we both so taken with the novelty of each other and the New YorkWyoming contrasts that we mistook novelty for sparkle? For depth?


Katie wants justice done, and on the pages of Past Perfect, the plot twists and turns as she tries to solve the riddles from her past. Past Perfect is entertaining and light reading.


Steve Hopkins, April 25, 2007



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the May 2007 issue of Executive Times


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