Takes One to Know One by Susan Isaacs (Grove Press, £14.99)
Corie Geller has a perfectly normal life. She lives in suburban splendour on Long Island, married to widower Josh, a hot-shot judge who’s handsome and rich.
She divides her time between working as a literary talent scout, looking after her teenage step-daughter and listening to her biological clock ticking.
But normality comes at a price. Corie has given up a career in counter-terrorism as an FBI interrogator — she joined up after 9/11, “to serve my country” — and she’s missing the excitement. Somehow Shabbat dinners and
membership of the local synagague don’t fill the gap.
It doesn’t help that perfect Josh seems to have missed out on the fun gene, and she worries that he was attracted to her because she was a “nice Jewish girl with a gun”. And every time she looks at the tasteful wallpaper and soft-furnishings in the family home — chosen by Josh’s late first wife — she fears she doesn’t measure up.
Not for nothing does the book’s first line recall the opening of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. However, homeland security is a hard habit to break and Corie has her suspicious eye on Pete, a fellow member of the club for home-workers and freelancers that she attends.
Why does Pete always sit in the same seat at the club’s weekly lunches, keeping tabs on his car parked across
the street? Why does he always have a different mobile phone? And why, underneath his bland exterior, is he so strangely cold and distant? Could he be up to no good? Or could Corie be so bored with her normal life that she’s imagining evil where none exists? Either way, she decides to investigate.
That investigation gets off to a slow start. For the first 100-odd pages of Susan Isaac’s thriller there’s little in the way of suspense or intrigue, with the descriptions of suburban domesticity perhaps getting in the way of the plot.
Thankfully, the pace picks up and moves to an exciting climax. Isaacs can be funny and has a nice turn of phrase — she describes a muscular guy with pointy ears as looking like “a bouncer at an elf club”.
And, at a time of terrorist attacks on shopping malls and high streets, she has effectively captured the fear and suspicion that blights normal life.
Alan Montague is a freelance reviewer