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In Kathy Wang’s upcoming novel Impostor Syndrome, a Russian spy rises through the ranks of the tech industry, eventually landing the COO gig at Tangerine (a riff on Google), while one of her underlings discovers a security blip that hints at the nefarious connections at play. The book hits shelves May 25, but EW will be sharing the first seven chapters exclusively on our website over three installments. Below, read the first excerpt.
Whenever Leo Guskov met a person of interest, he liked to ask about his or her parents. If the response was cagey, he made note, and if he thought he’d go further, then he was careful to en- sure the subject’s family-history paperwork was complete. Though it wasn’t that Leo believed you needed good parents to be productive. In fact, in his line of work, bad parents were often an advance indicator of success. An early acquaintanceship with adversity, of conquering that high mountain of disappointment and dread; the desire to serve, to be loyal and exceed expectations, if only to garner the approval earlier denied.
Where he sat now, inside a university auditorium by the Moskva River, Leo was surrounded by mothers and fathers (likely most good, some bad). He slouched and let wash over him the flotsam of idle complaint that comprised the background of Moscow life: a two-hour delay on the MKAD; expensive cucumbers at the grocer; a callous dermatologist at the state clinic, who’d refused to stay late and do a body check—there was alcohol on his breath and he said he had to bring home dinner. Just because his wife cannot keep house, so I have to die . . . ?
Years earlier Leo had stood onstage in a similar auditorium, his mother in a back row, clutching tulips. A week later he’d arrived for his first day of work, at a twenty-story concrete skyscraper in the Moscow city line. Inside the lobby, a brass plaque with initials: spb. State Protection Bureau. The best of Russia’s three intelligence agencies.
Now the weather outside was warm, which meant the audito- rium was near stifling. Peter Stepanov, Leo’s colleague from Direc- torate Eight, fidgeted to his right. Peter was tall and thin, and in the slim seat he was reminiscent of a pocket tool knife, his scissory arms and corkscrew legs all neatly confined in the space. “How about that one?” Peter asked, subtly pointing, though Leo already knew to whom he gestured. The blonde in front, with hair down to her waist.