Review: Spy in a Little Black Dress by Maxine Kenneth

It’s the early 1950s and young Jacqueline Bouvier is on her second assignment with the CIA: visiting the tumultuous political scene of Havana and investigating a young rebel at the fore of a potential uprising - his name is Fidel Castro. When she stumbles upon the diary of a nineteenth century soldier which hints at a treasure buried in Cuba, Jackie takes on a second quest, but despite the aid (and pleasing attentions) of a handsome young lawyer named Emiliano, Jackie soon finds the Cuban secret police and a motley crew of East German spies on her trail. With endless courage and utmost style, Jackie must stay a step ahead of her enemies if she wants to have a future with the CIA – or maybe any future at all. Peppered with appearances from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, and Ernest Hemingway, her adventure in Havana will be one to remember.

Based on an actual letter in the Kennedy library, Spy in a Little Black Dress is the second novel in Jacqueline Bouvier’s CIA adventures by authors Maxine Schnall and Kenneth Salikof writing together as Maxine Kenneth. The books examine what would have happened if Jackie, before marrying Jack Kennedy, had pursued a career with the Central Intelligence Agency, and the result is a delightful, effervescent journey into an alternate imagining of an iconic era. Jackie is a wonderfully depicted character, full of ingenuity and charisma, offering readers a glimpse into how the eventual First Lady would have handled some very hairy situations – like plummeting into a crocodile pit or saving a movie theater full of people from destruction. The iconic Jackie wears hats akin to James Bond and Indiana Jones, all the while maintaining her effortless style and plucky personality.

The story weaves history with fiction in a way that feels completely new, taking liberties as a necessity to explore the many scenarios Jackie could have found herself in. The reader is pulled deeply into the era with the appearances of artistic icons and the plethora of pop culture references that reflect life in the ‘50s. Even the historical timeline plays a central role in eliciting humor and engagement from the reader, as we see nuggets of thoughts from Jackie on what the future might hold if Cuba comes under the control of young Fidel Castro. The authors use a diverse and extensive selection of history, both in the worlds of politics and the arts, to drop smartly-planned quips that allow us to enjoy the freedom of knowing how things work out. Jack Kennedy himself also makes a few appearances, and it’s especially charming to read about his early flirtations with Jackie. Every character, from the historically based to the newly imagined, jumps off the pages of the book in wonderful detail and the authors’ talent for working as a team is reflected strongly in the novel’s well-rounded appeal, making Spy in a Little Black Dress a reading romp worthy of style, history, and adventure enthusiasts alike.

Title: Spy in a Little Black Dress Author: Maxine Kenneth (Maxine Schnall and Kenneth Salikof) Genre: Mystery Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Release date: October 2, 2012 Source: Grand Central Publishing (C/O) Buy the book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Better World Books Connect with the authors: Maxine Kenneth (website) | Maxine Kenneth (Twitter) | Maxine Schnall (website/blog) | Kenneth Salikof (Twitter)

Spy in a Little Black Dress