A Woman of Intelligence

Written by Karin Tanabe
Review by Janice Ottersberg

It is 1946. Katharina is single and living her dream life as an interpreter for the United Nations in New York City by day, and partying with her friends by night. Her life is fulfilling, but society expects her to marry. Tom is a pediatric surgeon from a very wealthy family, and to all appearances, Katharina’s ideal life is laid out in front of her once they walk down the aisle. Now the pressure is on to become a proper wife and mother.

The book opens with Katherina in the park with her two young sons. Tanabe’s dialogue is witty and engaging, making New York City of the late 1940s feel alive. This draws the reader into the story immediately. Tom imposes his strict ideals on what a wife and mother should be and won’t allow her outside help. Katherina feels trapped in her role and totally inept at keeping the chaos of two little boys under control. She sits up nights watching the street activity from her seventh-floor apartment window, in exile from her former life.

On a rare outing alone, she is approached by Lee Caldwell, an FBI operative, who has been watching her. He needs Katarina to make contact with a former college friend and lover, Jacob Gornev, who is a known Russian spy. The plan is to become Jacob’s courier and intercept documents leaking out of the Department of Defense. This is just what she needs to again feel valued and competent. Not only is she now spying for the FBI, but she is keeping under the radar of her controlling husband who thinks she is dutifully at home. This is an enjoyable, immersive read with clandestine meetings, covert activities, and a romance – a wonderful escape into 1940s New York City.