When a new Susan Isaacs novel comes out, her fans take notice. She’s not an extremely prolific writer; instead, she takes her time and writes a book every few years. But every one of her books has been a New York Times bestseller. She says she writes the kind of books she’d like to read — and she succeeds in writing books people love to read.
In “Takes One to Know One,” Isaacs presents a protagonist who is, like many of Isaacs’ main characters, a Jewish woman who is not quite content with her life. Corie Geller had an exciting career in the FBI’s Terrorism Task Force. But when, in her early thirties, she met uber-handsome federal judge and widower Josh Geller, her priorities changed. He had left a very lucrative spot in a top litigation law firm where lots of travel was involved, so he could be around for his daughter Eliza after his first wife died.
Corie, once she got over the shock that this handsome, very successful man (with family money, to boot) wanted to marry her, thought that she would be able to be a better mother to fourteen-year-old Eliza if she quit the FBI and got a job with less stress. Although she had loved her work, it was all-encompassing, and after she adopted Eliza, Corie wanted to be the best mother she could. Corie is also trying to figure out if she wants to have a child of her own with Josh, and the clock is definitely ticking on that decision.
In the meantime, Corie works for a few literary agencies scouting Arabic books that might be successful in the American book market. She is fluent in Arabic, which is why she was successful in the FBI, and she enjoys reading books for a living. After she moves to Shorehaven, the tony suburb where Josh and Eliza live, she feels the need to connect with other professionals, so she joins a Wednesday lunch group of people who are self-employed and want to network.
When she had left the FBI, Corie wanted to still be able to do contract work for them as needed. She was literally taught how to hide her background with the agency so that she’d remain unknown as an agent. During her lunches with the group, Corie is bothered by certain mannerisms that Pete Delaney, a fellow luncher, exhibits.
At first, she notices that at every single lunch, Pete sits in the same seat and looks obsessively out the window at his car, a high end Jeep. Then she observes that Pete often has different phones. When he shares stories about his work, designing packaging, she notices that he doesn’t give details. She also learns that while he meets with his clients for only a day or two, his trips out of town are always longer. Her powers of observation heightened by the feeling that something is off with Pete, she first tries to find out if he’s former intelligence, which might explain his careful demeanor and reluctance to give any real information about his life. He reminds her of herself. She also carefully asks the other members of the group what they know about him.
Corie learns that under the very nondescript, unstylish, and loose clothing he wears, he’s built like an athlete. One of the group had seen him in shorts and a tee shirt at a car wash fundraiser with his daughter. She’s also learned that he has a terrible temper.
And because life as a mom and a literary scout is a bit boring after being an FBI agent, Corie decides to investigate exactly what Pete Delaney is and what he is hiding. She enlists the aid of her father, a retired NYPD cop, who has been suffering from depression for quite a while. and she also enlists her best friend from childhood, Wynne, who is a “lifestyle coach” to the rich and famous. She doesn’t tell her husband what she is doing.
Along the way, we learn about Geller’s first wife, Dawn, and how different Corie’s priorities are from Dawn’s. We learn about the house that Dawn built (figuratively) and that Corie has made few changes in the decor — and we wonder why. But most of all, we identify with Corie’s curiosity about Pete, and we, too, want to know what the truth is about this very white-bread guy who apparently isn’t at all what he appears to be.
The plot and the suspense build and build and ultimately get to the point where we can’t put the novel down. As in all of Isaacs’ work, we truly like the protagonist, and we are happy to go along on this adventure with Corie step by step. Read this combination character study/action novel slowly. Get to know Corie — because Isaacs’ website informs us that “‘Takes One to Know One’ is the first in the Corie Geller series.” Rest assured that all of us will want to read more of Corie Geller’s excellent adventures.
First published on Bookreporter.com.