cover image LOOSE LIPS


Claire Berlinski, . . Random, $23.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-375-50908-7

Gidget joins the CIA in political writer Berlinski's rousing, hilarious, compulsively readable debut about a restless New Yorker who enlists in the secret service and learns about truth and justice the hard way. A Sanskritist previously stationed in India, spunky Selena Keller has returned to Manhattan only to face a lackluster teaching tenure. When a cryptic Internet ad seeking an "extraordinary individual" catches her eye, a whirlwind of screening exams and evaluations usher Selena in as the CIA's newest employee. Soon after relocating to Virginia, an orientation consisting of dull paperwork is replaced with hardcore, exhilarating physical instruction at a remote facility called "the Farm," where Selena learns hand-to-hand combat, emergency medicine and hilariously attempts to overcome a fear of flying. She befriends a tough, beautiful trainee named Iris and dates unsuccessfully—until Stan, a "pale, fat man with small eyes and very spiky thick red hair" manages to thrill her with his memory skills and eventually seduce her. Just as all is going well, Selena's trustworthiness and loyalty (and extracurricular activities) are called into question by a tough group of CIA adjudicators, an investigation is launched and it's clear that someone has framed her. Paranoia mounts and everyone close to Selena is considered a potential traitor, including the increasingly slimy Stan. Berlinski's far-fetched comedy of manners clips her protagonist's career wings a bit prematurely, but there's still a lot to cheer about thanks to the narrative voice of an extremely engaging and likable main character. Breezy, accomplished and bracing, this is superior entertainment. Agent, Kathy Robbins. 60,000 first printing; 4-city author tour; film rights sold to Tribeca and Universal. (June)