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Authors: Amanda Cross

An Imperfect Spy

BOOK: An Imperfect Spy
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“For more than twenty-five years Amanda Cross has been blazing a trail for the rest of us to follow. In AN IMPERFECT SPY she boldly tackles issues of aging and the current furor over so-called political correctness. Anyone who wants to understand these tough, important questions should read this book.”


“To open an Amanda Cross novel is to step back into the era of a gentler whodunit in which style and sophistication held sway over graphic sex and violence, and literate dialogue took the place of four-letter words.… Cross employs her graceful style and subtle wit to good advantage in this intricate, inventive, and ultimately surprising mystery. And, as always, Kate Fansler, a thoroughly modern woman but old-fashioned in all the right ways, makes a most agreeable heroine.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune

“Amanda Cross takes on both sides of the political correctness debate, and pays lighthearted homage to master spy novelist John le Carré (hence the title), in her latest academic whodunit.”

Atlanta Journal & Constitution


The Houston Post

“A solid crime novel … Fansler’s sharp mind and even sharper tongue are enough to keep everything stirred up, including readers.”

Rocky Mountain News

“[Amanda Cross] is to be lauded for tackling such provocative issues as age discrimination, gender bashing, and political correctness.”

The Orlando Sentinel

“Cross gets off some of her best feminist zingers in this one, and it’s good to hear her voice again.”

The Boston Globe

The author’s richest, most textured story yet.”

Mobile Register

“Kate Fansler, an academic addicted to erudition, cigarettes, Scotch, and sleuthing, was the first of many female literary detectives who broke into the hitherto testosterone-prone world of the private eye.”

The Boston Herald

“Besides posing and solving a neat puzzle, Cross provides a gold mine of stinging quotes for feminist college professors to post on their doors.”

Publishers Weekly

“Highly sophisticated tone, carefully constructed prose, and nicely contrived plot make this a winner.”

Library Journal

By Amanda Cross:












Published by Ballantine Books

A Ballantine Book
Published by The Ballantine Publishing Group
Copyright © 1995 by Carolyn Heilbrun

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by The Ballantine Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 95-94838

eISBN: 978-0-307-80215-6


To Judith Resnik
and Dennis Curtis




But today, peering calmly into his own heart,
Smiley knew that he was unled, and perhaps
unleadable; that the only restraints upon him
were those of his own reason,
and his own humanity


Abruptly he felt inside himself the rising panic of frustration beyond endurance



man in the first-class seat in the second row by the window had about decided that there would not be an occupant in the adjoining seat. The flight from London to New York was long, and he was glad not to be burdened with company. He placed his briefcase on the extra seat and sighed gratefully. They were about to shut the doors. And then, at the last minute, a woman entered the plane, smiled apologetically at the flight attendant, and paused at the seat next to his. He removed his briefcase, inwardly cursing his luck, knowing the curse showed on his face.

She was old. Old and heavy. Out of shape, with tousled gray hair that needed combing, and styling before that. If he had to have a female companion for the long flight, why not something young, attractive,
and forthcoming, or even not forthcoming? Old women were the devil. They found an excuse to talk to you, they found some question to ask, and then, before you knew it, you were hearing their life story and were in danger of being bored out of your mind, feigning sleep the only release. Really, it was too bad. She was, at least, on the aisle seat; old women had to pee every goddamn minute, and she would have had to step over him, or awake him from sleep, with endless, boring apologies, every other goddamn minute. The flight attendant had asked for her name, as they do in first class to verify one’s right to sit there, but he had been unable to make it out.

The woman requested a Bloody Mary and then buckled herself into her seat neatly and without fuss, although she had to stretch the seat belt to its absolute limits to get it around her bulging middle. Then, after extracting a notebook, pen, and book from her briefcase, she stowed it under the seat in front of her and went quietly to work. Unable to contain his curiosity, he strained and glanced until he could read the title of her book; but only the chapter headings topped the pages. The book was, he eventually gathered, on Freud, and she seemed to find it amusing, at times chuckling quietly to herself and making a note. An intellectual, it appeared, a professional, and probably anti-Freudian at that. He was a psychoanalyst, but he was determined that she would never find that out. If she started babbling to him about Freud, he would listen as patiently
as possible, and then retreat into his nap. Anyway, he needed to think.

Irritatingly, in light of his carefully contrived defenses, she paid no attention to him. When their meals were served, with cloths and the additional attentions first class offered, she went right on reading, although she had changed her book for a paperback: frivolity with food, he supposed. She was holding her book with the left hand while she ate with her right, and he could see its title easily: John le Carré:
Tinken Tailor
, something. So she was at heart a lowbrow, after all. Like him she had preferred white wine with her meal; unlike him, she had ordered the beef rather than the fish. He was intensely annoyed to discover that he was observing her with considerably more interest than she was bestowing on him. He disliked old—well, older, as one had to say these days—women; she was almost old enough to be his mother, and he certainly disliked his mother, whom he saw infrequently; in fact, not at all. His training analyst had encouraged him to break off all contact with her. He thought, furthermore, that women ought to keep themselves trim as they aged. How could they expect a man to look at them if they let themselves go that way? Her nails were clipped short and she wore no wedding ring. Probably had never even had any. Lesbian, perhaps; almost certainly, he then decided. This raised his spirits. No wonder she ignored him; ignoring men was the whole point of being a dyke, wasn’t it?

After dinner, they showed a movie. With the
lights dimmed, she went on reading her le Carré paperback for a while by the single illumination offered from the panel above their chairs. Then she put away her book, stretched out her legs over her briefcase—her legs, unlike his, were not long, permitting her to do this—closed her eyes, and appeared to go to sleep. He realized, as he, too, closed his eyes, that he needed to take a leak, and that he would have to wake her, climb over her (what a thought), and then, when he had done, climb back. He unfastened his seat belt, which he had, unaccountably, left fastened around him; he usually unfastened it even before permission to do so was given by the officious signals. He touched her shoulder, rising as he did so. She stepped into the aisle to let him through; when he returned she was not in her seat, having apparently decided to avail herself simultaneously of the facilities. He thus avoided stepping over her when he returned; immediately he affected sleep, lest her return inspire her to talk. But once she had, upon returning, immediately resumed her slumbers, he decided to follow the movie and dug out the earphones; it was as idiotic as one might expect. He kept glancing at her, unable to prevent himself from doing this. It was exactly, he thought, looking at her in the face of her self-containment, like deciding nothing could induce you to attend a certain party, only to discover you had not been invited. Rejection is never easy. That, perhaps, was why he had, unaccountably, spoken to her near the end of their journey.

BOOK: An Imperfect Spy
8.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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