I first encountered the writing of Olen Steinhauer last winter, when I read an advance reader copy of his newest spy novel, All the Old Knives. The review is posted here. I loved the book and made a mental note to read some of his previous thrillers. A Cairo Affair (published in 2014) was ordered from my local library and I just finished it this morning.
Wow. Steinhauer is a master at the extremely complicated plot devices and twists that make up the world of counterintelligence. This is a world where no one is to be trusted, where everyone has a hidden agenda, where the ‘truth’ is relative. This particular story is told from the viewpoint of various characters, and it is a unique way of advancing the plot. With each new narrator, we see the story, which begins as a search for the killer of an American analyst, from a different perspective, and that perspective allows for new information.
But it also creates a vast and complicated puzzle. Who is telling the truth? Who has a hidden agenda? Will we ever learn the truth?
What Steinhauer does brilliantly is keep the plot moving in a compelling, can’t-put-it-down manner. You’d think this sort of complex, multi-layered plot would confuse the reader. Who was that person? When did Steinhauer refer to that character?
Not at all. He juggles all the individual nuggets of plot with admirable skill. And I followed every one of them.
Steinhauer, though he may be tired of hearing this, reminds me of John LeCarré, that past master of the spy thriller. That is truly high praise.
I am hooked on this writer and will be reading more of his books – you may be sure of that!
I hope you give him a try.
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I received my copy of The Cairo Affair through my local library.