Reviews for Cairo Affair

Booklist Reviews 2013 December #1
*Starred Review* One of the two best espionage novelists working today, Steinhauer follows his acclaimed Milo Weaver trilogy with a stunning stand-alone that is as emotionally rich as it is layered with intrigue. Budapest, March 2011: career diplomat Emmett Kohl is shot dead in a restaurant, in front of his disbelieving wife, Sophie. Determined to find out why, she follows a trail that leads to the American embassy in a tumultuous Cairo; to the revolution under way in neighboring Libya; to Langley, Virginia; and to her own ill-fated honeymoon in Eastern Europe. It has something to do with "Stumbler," a CIA plan for regime change, but, as we shadow a half-­dozen key players, the hows and whys prove maddeningly elusive--and, in the words of a veteran spy: "When you live in a house of mirrors, the only way to stay alive is to believe that every reflection is real." A complex tale of the Arab Spring, WikiLeaks, the CIA, and a marriage, this leaves us with the unsettling feeling that, despite all the information won, lost, hoarded, and put to use, the world of intelligence is no stronger than the fragile, fallible humans who navigate it. It has become de rigeur to compare Steinhauer to le Carré, but it's nearly time to pass the torch: for the next generation, it's Steinhauer who will become the standard by which others are measured. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Given the success of Steinhauer's last three books, the publisher is backing this one with a six-figure marketing campaign and a 150,000-copy print run. Patrons will be asking for it. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2014 February #1
In the new novel by the well-traveled Steinhauer (An American Spy, 2012, etc.), the death of an American diplomat in Hungary sets wheels spinning across North Africa. Sophie Kohl hasn't been the best of wives. But when her husband, Emmett, is shot in a Budapest restaurant, her reaction is swift and visceral. Instead of flying his body home to Boston, she bolts to Cairo, the scene of diplomat Emmett's last posting. There, she seeks help from her former lover, Stan Bertolli, in unraveling the drama that led to Emmett's end. Opinion is mixed. Emmett's colleague and Stan's boss, Harry Wolcott, thinks the dead agent sold out his country to Zora Balaševic, who has dirt on him from the youth he misspent among disaffected Serbians in Novi Sad. Stan has more faith in the deceased rival for Sophie's affections. He helps her track down Jibril Aziz, a CIA analyst from Langley who recently appeared in Cairo asking for escort into Libya. The creator of Stumbler, a long-dormant blueprint for the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi, Aziz is convinced that someone has revived his plan at the worst possible moment: just as the Libyans stand poised to rid themselves of the dictator. As the Egyptians cope with their own version of the Arab Spring, more contestants vie for the Betrayal of the Month prize, and the body count climbs. In the end, it's a question of which will win out: misguided nationalism or plain old greed. Could easily dispense with a third of the pages in this le Carré wannabe. Copyright Kirkus 2014 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 October #1

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.

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Library Journal Reviews 2013 November #2

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

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Library Journal Reviews 2015 October #1

Steinhauer is best known as the author of the "Tourist" series featuring Milo Weaver, but this stand-alone story is a prime example of how a modern spy novelist navigates the current terrain. During the Arab Spring, an American diplomat's violent murder in Egypt sends his wife looking for answers. (LJ 10/1/13)

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2014 January #1

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).

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