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An Imperfect Spy (Kate Fansler Novels) Hardcover – January 17, 1995


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Product Details

  • Series: Kate Fansler Novels
  • Hardcover: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (January 17, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345389174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345389176
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,459,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her latest jab at academia's underside, New York City literature professor Kate Fansler, last seen in The Players Come Again, team teaches a course in "Women in Law and Literature" at Schuyler Law School while her husband, law professor Reed Amhearst, establishes a student-staffed legal clinic. Among Schuyler's predominantly mediocre and sexist faculty is a lively and mysterious 60-ish secretary named Harriet who models herself on John le Carre's fictional spy, George Smiley. Harriet, like Kate's teaching partner Blair Whitson, voices concern that the recent death of a feminist professor at Schuyler might not have been an accident. Harriet is also interested in the imprisoned Betty Osborne, who murdered her husband for "no reason" (as one Schuyler professor says: "Of course he didn't beat her; he was a member of this faculty."). Just as Kate begins to look into these deaths, she and Blair face a conservative backlash from a surprising quarter, touching off skirmishes sure to shake Schuyler's complacent foundations. While Kate and Reed are as appealing as ever, the real draw of this thinking-reader's mystery is the anger-at the limitations of women's roles in society (imposed and assumed)-that fuels it and its thoroughly disclosed academic setting. Besides posing and solving a neat puzzle, Cross provides a gold mine of stinging quotes for feminist college professors to post on their doors. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The newest Kate Fansler mystery (A Trap for Fools, Ballntine, 1990) heads each chapter with a quote from the works of Le Carre. These and frequent allusions to Hardy, Dickens, and Wilde indicate indebtedness to other authors and perhaps some critical self-awareness. Kate and husband Reed have each agreed to teach a course at New York's third-rate, racist, and chauvinistic Schuyler Law School, where they investigate the accidental death of the school's only woman professor and try to assist an imprisoned faculty wife who murdered her abusive husband. Highly sophisticated tone, carefully constructed prose, and nicely contrived plot make this a winner.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mary E. Sibley VINE VOICE on November 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Kate Fansler had passed the statistical point of midlife. Nostalgia may be a disabling pressure that signifies retreat. Kate addresses the parents at her old school, the Theban. At the event she is challenged by a secretary from Schuyler Law School that she has never really done anything for the dispossessed, marginal individual.

Reed is to start a clinic at Schuyler Law School. The woman from the secretarial room at Schyler appears in the apartment building of Kate and Reed. She claims her presence proves her point that middle-aged women are invisible. The woman claims that reading John LeCarre has convinced her to become a spy.

The woman has disappeared, shedding her identity. Prior to that she was a professor. The woman calls herself Harriet. Harriet has pursued the couple for reason of Kate's crime-solving reputation. She wants them to investigate the death of a woman professor at Schuyler Law School.

Kate meets the faculty member who is to co-teach her literature and law seminar. Kate is seeking a pleasant change from MIDDLEMARCH. Trying to understand the men she meets at Schuyler, Harriet tells Kate that she has never met a group of bonded males swollen with mediocrity and power. Talking to her male colleague she comes to understand that he has crossed the line, he knows why a women's movement exists. Contemplating the death of the female faculty member causes Kate to go into her investigative mode. Kate goes to see the brother of the dead woman, Nellie Rosenbach.

In the end the mystery surrounding the Harriet character is disclosed. This book includes the battered woman syndrome and a host of feminist issues. This may be Carolyn Heilbrun's best Amanda Cross offering.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Judy Ayoub, dh00204@goodnet.com on January 24, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
What happened to the person who wrote "The James Joyce Murder?"
I can forgive Ms. Fansler for the more obscure literary references, which tend to bore the non- literature scholars, but 212 pages of whining about the plight of women! Only the choir would listen to that sermon.
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By J. Roth on October 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the best Kate Fansler mystery I've read so far. The plot is intriguing and it keeps snapping along. The danger
lies in the "set-in-concrete" thinking and practices of the college, which cause great harm to a fellow professor and to the
student body. How the students come to think for themselves and take some control of their education is a positive
outcome. The rest of the outcomes I won't reveal, but the reader will celebrate them. Love the character of Harriet!
The quotations of John Le Carre's character, George Smiley, add brilliantly to the story.
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By juki654 on February 22, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm sorry that some readers so disliked this book, and published really savage reviews. I loved it, and one of the reasons, to be honest, is that I also love John Le Carre, and was very moved by the quotations as well as the whole spy theme. I have also seen, and experienced, sexism in institutions. Perhaps some of the readers are just too young.

Which really brings up the issue of what is fair criticism. Sometimes I read books but realize that the insights and underpinnings of the story are very far from my understanding of reality. But I would never publish a review of a book I can't like for those reasons. I don't think it's fair, and I wouldn't want to discourage people from reading who could enjoy that kind of world view.

If you are widely read, if you love Hardy and the story of Demeter, I think you'll love this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Moe811 on April 5, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Kate and Reed are invited to teach for a semester at a mediocre law school in the city. There are no women tenured on the faculty, the only one was hit by a truck. Another faculty member's wife is in prison for shooting her abusive husband in the chest, ending a long history of abuse. The faculty made sure she got the maximum. Reed is to start a legal clinic for the students and Kate is co teaching a course on literature and the law.
This was a pretty good Fansler mystery. Kate never seems to have to teach at her own university anymore. The characters are interesting and so is the mystery. One point, the prison on Staten Island, Arthur Kill by name, does not have any women in it. Bedford Hills or Taconic in Westchester are not all that far away and would have been better choices.
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