About the book (from the publisher): Six years ago in Vienna, terrorists took over 100 hostages, and the rescue attempt went terribly wrong. The CIA’s Vienna Station was witness to this tragedy, gathering intel from its sources during those tense hours, assimilating facts from the ground and from an agent on the inside. So when it all went wrong, the question had to be asked: Had their agent been compromised, and how?
Two of the CIA’s case officers in Vienna, Henry Pelham and Celia Harrison, were lovers at the time, and on the night of the hostage crisis Celia decided she’d had enough. She left the agency, married and had children, and is now living an idyllic life in the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Henry is still a case officer in Vienna, and has traveled to California to see her one more time, to relive the past, maybe, or to put it behind him once and for all.
But neither of them can forget that long-ago question: Had their agent been compromised? If so, how? Each also wonders what role tonight’s dinner companion might have played in the way the tragedy unfolded six years ago.
My review: Wow. I have to expand my horizons. Steinhauer has written several books but this is my first experience reading his words. It won’t be my last. The premise of this mystery/thriller is a simple one. Two former agents, also former lovers, meet for dinner. Each has an agenda. The story is told from each character’s point-of-view. As Henry prepares to visit Celia in California, we learn about the events of six years ago from his perspective. He has an assignment – to find out what Celia knew, as the bureau is still investigating just what happened on that terrible day.
Does Celia also have an agenda? As Steinhauer moves back and forth between the present and the past – alternating between Henry’s story and Celia’s story – tiny pieces of the puzzle emerge. But never enough revealed for us to figure things out ahead of the story. Thank goodness!
There are flashbacks to the days leading up to the terrorist attack, as well as the day of the attack. With each flashback we learn a little more.
This game of cat and mouse which is entirely constructed around a dinner date is an amazing piece of work by the author. I was completely enthralled from start to finish. In fact, I was out of town on business at the time and I couldn’t put it down. Steinhauer is a master storyteller. He very carefully gives us bits of information as the story moves along, but like all great thriller writers, he keeps his cards close to his chest.
The characters are beautifully written, the setting fully realized. By the time we get to the final third of the book, the story shifts into high gear and it becomes impossible to even think of stopping.
I never give away endings, but I will tell you this: I was one shocked reader at the end and that made me want to throw my arms around the author’s neck and shout “Huzzah! You got me!”
Olen Steinhauer is a writer to add to your list, my friends. This book was one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It is to be published on March 10, 2015.
About the author: Olen Steinhauer grew up in Virginia, and has since lived in Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Texas, California, Massachusetts and New York. Outside the U. S., he’s lived in Croatia (when it was called Yugoslavia) the Czech Republic and Italy. He also spent a year in Romania on a Fulbright Grant, an experience that helped inspire his first five books. He now lives in Hungary with his wife and daughter.
The above link is an Amazon affiliate link. I earn a wee bit of money if you use it. Thanks for helping support Just Let Me Finish This Page!
Thank you to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for an eGalley of this book in exchange for my honest review.