A Most Clever Girl

Stephanie Marie Thornton. Berkley, $17 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-0-593-19840-7
The Cold War provides the background for Thornton’s suspenseful latest (after And They Called It Camelot), about an American spy for the Soviets turned FBI informant. In 1963, White House tour guide Catherine Gray, 21, confronts an ailing, alcoholic Elizabeth Bentley, 55, over unexplained circumstances (“You ruined my life, you Communist bitch. And now you’re going to pay for it,” Catherine says, pointing a gun at her). Elizabeth buys some time by relating her life story, beginning in 1933 New York City when she naively attends a Communist Party meeting. Ten years later, Elizabeth becomes a handler for a spy ring operating in the U.S., handing over secrets to the Soviets. When her distrustful clients demand Elizabeth turn over her contacts’ names, she refuses; a confrontation with the lethal Soviet secret police NKVD results, prompting Elizabeth to become an FBI informant out of self-preservation. Her testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee helps convict Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, among others, and her story culminates with a shattering revelation of what brought Catherine to her doorstep. Though the prose can feel hackneyed, for the most part this glides on noirish cool. Harrowing anecdotes and juicy spycraft will keep readers turning the pages. Agent: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/06/2021
Release date: 09/14/2021
Genre: Fiction
Library Binding - 656 pages - 978-1-4328-9316-3
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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