Posts Tagged ‘Harvard Scholar’

Yesterday was another scorcher, but I had a plan: a lounge chair on the screened porch in front of a large fan, a bowl of popcorn, a tall cold glass of seltzer, and a novel: Anonymous Sources, by Mary Louise Kelly. I heard a snippet of Kelly’s appearance on the The Diane Rehm Show last week, and was intrigued. It sounded like just the thing for a warm Sunday afternoon.

If you recognize the name Mary Louise Kelly, you’re an NPR listener (or CNN or BBC World Service, where she’s also been a correspondent and producer). Try not to hate her for being incredibly successful at two careers; this will be a challenge if you read her acknowledgements, as she describes writing the novel in Tuscany as her husband brought her espresso & Chianti and helped her work out tricky plot issues.With this novel, she’s definitely launched her fiction-writing career with a flourish. Anonymous Sources is a terrifically entertaining spy novel. By the end, the reader is able to start putting the pieces together, but it still felt fresh, even though the villains are familiar: rogue Pakistani nuclear scientists and a fringe terror group.

Her heroine, Alexandra James, is a hoot. She’s a smart young reporter with a weakness for designer shoes and Hendrick’s gin. She’s acutely aware of the effect her long legs and red hair have on men. And she’s not afraid to exploit it in order to file a good story or, as the case may be, get out of a sticky situation with a wannabe terrorist.

I loved the supporting cast as well, from Alex’s best friend and fellow reporter Elias, who owns an incredible array of kitchen gadgets and “drinks espresso the way Italians do. Which is to say, like water,” to Hyde, the quirky father-figure editor who lets Alex chase a hunch on a routine story that leads her from Harvard, where the White House Counsel’s son has died in an apparent accident or suicide, to Cambridge University, where he’d spent a year as Harvard Scholar. There Alex meets Lucien Sly, “Lord Lucien Sly,” who makes her laugh, is “fantastic in bed,” but is also “obviously a cad and incapable of an exclusive relationship.”

I don’t want to give away the page-turning story, so I’ll just say this: if you want a fun read, the literary equivalent of a smartly-done popcorn flick, with great details about the intelligence community and national security, a gripping and somewhat alarming plot, and characters that will make you laugh and also compel you to root for them, pick up Anonymous Sources. If you’re an aspiring writer, read the acknowledgements, where Kelly talks about rewriting the awful parts under the guidance of her agent, and take heart, and rewrite.

Up next, I have requested the now-outed J.K. Rowling’s police procedural from the library, since I seem to be on a spy/mystery/thriller kick. I can’t wait to see what it’s like, since it got such good reviews before anyone knew she wrote it.

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