In Rosalie Knecht’s Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery, a former CIA agent balances her work duties with romance in her new role as a private investigator.
Vera hoped for a more normal life after being abandoned by the CIA, but when she loses her girlfriend and her job on the same day, she decides to play up her skill set and bury her emotional pain in detective work. Going undercover, she assumes the role of a social worker in Westchester, that of a movie studio executive in the Dominican Republic, and that of a double agent in her personal life, all to locate a missing child.
Vera’s investigation is bettered by her ability to remain calm under pressure and adapt to new information. The text switches to the missing boy’s point of view on occasion, highlighting the importance of Vera’s risky actions; his predicament involves politics and family issues.
Though Vera faces peril because of her false identities, her situation is also more dangerous because of her gender and sexual orientation. Vera’s conversations with other queer characters expose 1960s New York, wherein police raid bars and arrest LGBTQ+ people, and employers and landlords add character clauses to contracts to legally discriminate against them. Vera is underestimated and subject to behavioral expectations; she’s forced to hide elements of her being in service of her work and everyday existence.
Vera proves skilled at shutting people out, though she yearns for connection. While the kidnapping provides the novel’s tense moments and daring escape scenes, it’s Vera’s restrained yet sensitive narration that holds attention, betraying her insecurities, even as she pursues her case—and a new love interest.
Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery is an intricate mystery featuring love, corruption, and a charming and capable heroine.
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