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Who Is Vera Kelly?

(Vera Kelly #1)

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  4,198 ratings  ·  603 reviews
New York City, 1962. Vera Kelly is struggling to make rent and blend into the underground gay scene in Greenwich Village. She's working night shifts at a radio station when her quick wits, sharp tongue, and technical skills get her noticed by a recruiter for the CIA.

Next thing she knows she's in Argentina, tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of
Paperback, 266 pages
Published June 12th 2018 by Tin House Books
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Bob Most gay people were masters of 'deep cover' back then. I speak from experience. Vera was no exception.…moreMost gay people were masters of 'deep cover' back then. I speak from experience. Vera was no exception.(less)

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Average rating 3.50  · 
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Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
“Call the State Department. I’m CIA.”

Ooooh, this was good. Part spy thriller, part character study, and part historical fiction.

This book is told through a delicate interweaving of past and present. The past chapters chronicle the Vera’s youth, her troubled relationship with her mother, her brief stint in juvie, her sexual awakening, and the work that eventually leads to her recruitment by the CIA. The present chapters take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, circa 1966, in the months prior to
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received this book for free from the publisher (Tin House Books) in exchange for an honest review.

I give this book 3.5 stars which rounds up to 4.

This book is a slow burn. It’s not your typical spy novel. It’s on the slow side and there isn’t much action. I was expecting some twists and turns to the story, but that wasn’t what I got. It was a pretty straightforward plot. As a spy novel, it was a bit lackluster. I also felt that the spy parts could have been developed more because all the eve
Instead of the "edge of your seat" action spy thriller, this one is a more literary and character-driven spy story. The narrative moves swiftly between two time periods: 1950s Maryland/New Jersey, USA and 1960s Buenos Aires, Argentina. Vera's childhood and youth are troubled, and she spends time in juvenile detention centers and boarding schools. Later, in the 1960s timeline, we follow her covert intelligence work in Argentina - posing as a Canadian university student, her mission is to look for ...more
Oct 11, 2018 rated it liked it
The swirling politics of Argentina in 1966 attracted the CIA, the KGB, and various Argentinian revolutionaries. In June 1966, a coup headed by General Juan Carlos Ongania was successful and resulted in him becoming the de facto president. He was opposed to both liberal democracy and to Communism.

Knecht has used this chaotic period in Argentina’s history as the backdrop for Vera Kelly’s CIA spying activities. Vera’s cover story is that she is a Canadian student. The CIA has identified a group of
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: auth-f, x2018-read
Not a James Bondian spy story at all, thank goodness. Vera Kelly is in Argentina in 1966 to conduct surveillance. With her cover as a Canadian student, she encounters other students at night, and by day listens to recordings, passing on translated transcriptions and other bits of information to her CIA handler. Vera comes off as quiet and conscientious in her work, while the various students and others she meets appear to like her.
Rosalie Knecht gives us an interesting portrayal of a young woman
Jan 26, 2020 rated it liked it
I was significantly more invested in Vera Kelly's past & the flashback scenes than the spy stuff. But I'll probably still pick up book 2 because I really enjoy the way it was written ...more
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Who is Vera Kelly? is an interesting and original little historical espionage novel, with its chapters alternating between the main character's presence during the lead-up to the Argentine Revolution in mid-1966 AND her problematic teen years in conventional suburban Maryland of the late 50's.

You see, Ms. Kelly is a CIA operative (though not in a James Bond or Jason Bourne sense) working solo in Buenos Aires with a dual purpose - observe / infiltrate the local student revolutionaries as well as
Janelle Janson
Thank you so much to Tin House for providing my free copy of WHO IS VERA KELLY? by Rosalie Knecht - all opinions are my own.

I really enjoyed this book! And can we just take a moment to admire this cover?!! It’s PERFECT and really showcases the story inside! I really loved the character Vera. So much so, I would love to see this as a series. It’s not a typical spy novel but rather more of a short piece of literary fiction about a spy. The book is short with chapters that alternate between past an
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is not your mother’s spy novel (no offense, moms). Rosalie Knecht is the knockout champion of suspenseful stories, and she really packs a page-turning punch with WHO IS VERA KELLY? Her literary footwork is impressive, deftly weaving political intrigue and heartfelt drama into a one-two knockout that will leave you dazzled.

Who is Vera Kelly? She is a CIA spy whose latest assignment is to monitor the growing political unrest in Argentina and to sniff out any KGB activity. She finds herself e
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it
At first this was a confusing mash of back and forward of Vera's younger years and her current presence in Argentina, as Anna, and by about half way through I wasn't sure I was keeping up with the politics in government and within the student community. It was losing me, but then the June 1966 coup occured and it suddenly settled and the Vera and Anna threads started to weave together quite tightly and I was gripped until the end.

3 stars
Anna Avian
Jul 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Easy and quick read. The concept is interesting but for me the book didn't reach it's full potential. No thrill or suspense whatsoever. The story needed a little more exploration in order to be more interesting and captivating. There were a lot of topics that the author just brushed off, like her adolescence, her relationship with her mother, and I wanted her to dig deeper. ...more
Erin Glover
Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it
It’s a fun read. In fact, I read most of it in one sitting. But I closed the book and said out loud, “Nah, never happen.” All the elements are there. It should be a really good book. It just isn’t.

It’s 1966. Vera is quirky and shy. Kind of the tech nerd type. She’s in Buenos Aires pretending to be Canadian and a college student while engaging in suspect activities for a suspect entity. She’s mysterious about her sexual preference. Pretty juicy so far.

The parties she’s surveilling could be KGB
Elizabeth Willis
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer, arc, small-press
Rosalie Knecht’s Who Is Vera Kelly? is a spy novel for readers who avoid spy novels. It’s a page turner that stunningly evokes both 1960s Argentina, and the trauma of growing up queer in 1950s and 60s America. Vera Kelly is a CIA agent monitoring student activists (who are purportedly affiliated with the KGB) in a politically tumultuous Buenos Aires. Vera, operating incognito both professionally and romantically, spirals down the rabbit hole as she becomes ever more involved in these fiery stude ...more
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is an absolute gem. I first heard about it from an odd source (for me) — Elle magazine, which enticed readers to "view the Cold War from another angle in this spy novel about a young American woman embedded in a group of Buenos Aires activists in the 1960s."

Then I completely forgot about it for several months. Then on a random trip to the Strand it leapt out at me from the shelves, so.

Anyway! It's indeed about an American twenty-something who's a spy in Buenos Aires during the Col
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read2018
Somehow I never wrote a review for this but I remember reading it, and now I have the sequel so I thought I should at least mark it as read. I had a review copy of it through NetGalley, where I also never reviewed it. What gives, old me.
The book failed to reach its full potential despite an interesting concept. I’m going to point the most annoying thing about the book first.
”The American objective in cover ops was to preserve democracy.”
I honestly laughed out loud when I read it. It’s in the very beginning of the story and the book was told from Vera’s pov, so if she believed it then, it’s in the text. But my main complain that the intrusive foreign policy of the US isn’t really properly condemned or addressed in its comple
Sarah Dealy
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
I guess I would give this book 2.5 stars but I definitely would not recommend it. Honestly, I’m not sure why I finished it - the prose, though boring, is kind of soothing and melodic and that is probably part of the reason. The other part is because I was waiting for it to get good or get gay and it never did. This book has been marketed as the gayest, most exciting book ever and it is neither. As far as gay is concerned, the main person who Vera has a sexual relationship with is a cisman - whic ...more
Apr 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc-reviews
Who is Vera Kelly? is a fast, easy read. Rosalie Knecht’s writing is clear and sharp and I raced through the book in less than a day. Using chapters that alternate between Vera’s past and present, Knecht weaves a coming of age story into a political thriller. There is a lot to love about this novel, but I also found myself feeling disconnected at times. For me, Who is Vera Kelly? is a solid three stars. If you like plot driven novels, especially about spies, or historical fiction, this might be ...more
Kate Olson
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Tin House for this free review copy!
I can honestly say that I didn't know just how much I needed to read a spy novel about a female CIA agent in 1960s Buenos Aires.......and then I read this book and realized I was obviously aching for this in my life. I stayed up way, way, way past my bedtime inhaling Vera's adventures that alternate between the years leading up to her CIA career and her mission in Buenos Aires ~ both of these storylines were fascinating to me, and I deeply appreciat
Who is Vera Kelly?

I liked WHO IS VERA KELLY? I think it delivered more than it promised. For no extra fee, I got a quick history lesson about US operations in the 60s, a view of the Cold War, and a view of CIA operations that I would actually expect… nothing 007ish, just listening and watching. AND a geography and history lesson about Argentina and the Falkland Islands.

So she ends up in Argentina, wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating student activists in Buenos Aires. As in real life, th
3.5 stars. I was looking for something to distract me from all the tough news and this fit the bill. I am hopeful Booktopia will occur and I hope to meet Rosalie Knecht. We learn who Vera Kelly is and what she is up to. This novel moves between her teens in Maryland and her move to NYC after graduation to Argentina where her latest job has taken her. She is a very interesting character, with unusual skills and the plot kept me turning the pages. I can't wait for book # 2 in the Vera Kelly series ...more
Rosemarie Donzanti
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Really a 3.5 rating. This book is in parts historical fiction, a character study, and an espionage thriller. Vera Kelly is complex and she lives her life on the down low. The chapters alternate between her current life, 1966 Argentina, where she is a spy for the CIA in Buenos Aires and the late 1950's where she is a troubled teen hiding her true sexual orientation. Vera is deeply involved with the CIA, the KGB, and various Argentinian revolutionaries. She is an incredibly ball-sy loner who leads ...more
Scarllet ✦ iamlitandwit
Who is Vera Kelly?

In its bare bones, this is a character exploration. Vera's past and present are at play and we get to learn how she got into this spy business at such a turbulent time in 1960s Argentina. I found the past chapters ended up being way shorter than I would've liked because I'm always fascinated when reading about how women were treated in the 1950s (especially women who like other women and how that aspect affects an already marginalized identity).

This is my type of book honestly
Emilia Barnes
Meh. The writing's all right but so cool and detached that it's difficult to care. If at least the stakes were high (or at least clear) or the pace quick, I could have got on board, but with nothing happening, with no idea why I should care and with a heroine whose central attraction is that the author decided to write a book about her, I really couldn't. I mean, don't tell me I'm getting a novel about a lesbian spy in the sixties and then have nothing happen. I mean, Christ, the premise writes ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lgbtqia
Honestly, just bored by this one. I kept waiting for it to get good and gay but it did not deliver.
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very unique telling of a spy story. Told in alternate chapters of Vera Kelly as a troubled teen and how she ended up in Argentina in 1966 as a CIA agent. Loved this story. Cannot wait for book 2 which will be out soon!
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This novel was a slow burn for me, but by the end I was hooked. I love books that turn genre inside out, and Vera Kelly definitely does that. Funny and sharp.
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Linda by: #1 of series of Booktopia 2020 book
Quirky teenager who fights school and mother grows up to work for the CIA and is sent to Argentina. I like Vera Kelly and look forward to the next volume and meeting Ms. Knecht at Booktopia in May. Good writing.
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-release
Thanks to Tin House for sending me this book as part of the Galley Club (where you get a free book in exchange for an honest review and feedback).

When I first heard of this book, I expected a spy novel, like a female James Bond book. It is that with Vera's time as a spy in Argentina. But I think the title tells you more of what the story really is. It's about the general person of Vera Kelly and what made her who she ends up being (the spy experience is part of that). The book alternates betwee
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who is Vera Kelly? Well, different things, different people, in fact, to different people. But for the purpose of the narrative her two main identifiers are a spy and a lesbian. I’m not sure she’s superbly effective as a former and she’s entirely too comfortable sleeping with men for the latter, but there it is. And honestly, I’m not actually all that into spy fiction or even a lot of spy movies for that matter. The plots are always entirely too convoluted and the denouement is seldom satisfacto ...more
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Rosalie Knecht is the author of Vera Kelly is not a Mystery (2020), Who is Vera Kelly? (2018) and Relief Map (2016). She is also the translator of César Aira's The Seamstress and the Wind.

Other books in the series

Vera Kelly (2 books)
  • Vera Kelly Is Not A Mystery

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