When a diplomat at the American embassy in Hungary is shot to death, his distraught wife, Sophie; Cairo-based CIA agent Stan Bertolli; Egyptian agent Omar Halawi; and American analyst Jibril Aziz all converge in Cairo, where the victim was once assigned. A one-day laydown on March 18.[Page 57]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Married for 20 years, Emmett and Sophie are a U.S. foreign service couple stationed in Budapest. But when Emmett is shot and killed while dining cozily with Sophie, she flies alone under the radar in a quest to root out his assassin. Early steps take her to Cairo, where old, grievous errors emerge to obstruct her. Tracked by zealous agents from a bewildering array of espionage services, Sophie finds an unlikely ally or two, gleans clues from WikiLeaks, and displays more guts than sense, yet her destiny cannot be averted. She must face a harrowing confrontation with her past. In narrative arcs that vault between a 1991 honeymoon trip to Serbia and a few days in 2011, Steinhauer once again displays his mastery of complex and twisty storytelling. The author of The Tourist and An American Spy excels in the genre of modern espionage fiction because his work resonates with today's headlines, horrors, and fiascos. VERDICT Readers yearning for a fiendishly complex plot, penetrating characterizations, and a new warrior in the ancient struggle between anomie and truth will welcome Sophie and her brash courage. [See Prepub Alert, 9/16/13.]--Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA[Page 87]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Like luxury watchmaker Franck Muller, Olen Steinhauer is the espionage "Master of Complications." The Cairo Affair is an elegant, elaborate clockwork of mystery and deception that should draw readers in and keep them on tenterhooks as they try to figure out what is really making it all tick. It opens in the bowels of CIA headquarters during the Arab Spring. A Libyan-American analyst thinks he sees his previously rejected secret plan to overthrow Gadhafi going operational. But why and how? And who's behind it? Then in a restaurant in Budapest, American diplomat Emmett Kohl is gunned down by a hit man in front of wife, Sophie, just seconds after informing her that he knows all about her affair with a CIA agent last year when they were stationed in Cairo. What can the connection be? In the thick of Arab revolutions, the action toggles from the streets of Cairo to the Libyan Desert to Budapest. Then back in time to 1991, when Emmett and Sophie honeymooned in wartime Yugoslavia. There they met Zora, the mysterious Serbian spymistress, who now has her tentacles around everyone. Steinhauer seduces with the web of falsehoods that the characters spin, in their desperate attempts to stay alive. Nothing is as it seems. "Who trusts anyone these days?" asks the Cairo CIA bureau chief. "Don't take it personally. In a situation like this, everything should be examined, and if you're missing some crucial piece of information, it's best to assume you don't know anything." This is also good advice for the reader. It is how this writer keeps us turning the pages. Steinhauer is often compared to John le Carré. But the comparison does not adequately serve either author. (Is there an homage to le Carré here? No fan of the master could forget his first post-cold-war novel The Night Manager--a doomed affair set in Cairo, with a woman named Sophie. Can this possibly be a coincidence?) Le Carré's books are driven by insoluble moral quandaries. What's more, with his breathtaking insight and economy, le Carré draws his characters from the inside out, making us feel the awful weight of their existential burdens. Steinhauer does make references to the inner lives of his characters, but to this reader they remain superficial--like tweets about their emotions sent from an iPhone. What Steinhauer's writing delivers is adrenalin. The Cairo Affair is the Olympics of Deception. Steinhauer's characters are gold medalists of lying. Watching them deceive one another and themselves is riveting. Whose lies will finally be at the bottom of this dizzying clockwork of interconnected deceits? By the time you reach the end of the book and find out, you will be exhausted and satisfied with the journey. But you will see that the novel is like a Franck Muller watch, a construct of beauty--but metallic and cold. No matter. One marvels at the intricacy of its imagination and the elegance of its maker's craftsmanship. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, Gernert Company. (Mar.) Glenn Kaplan is the author of Poison Pill and Evil, Inc., a New York Times bestseller (both Tor/Forge).[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC