120 of 132 people found the following review helpful
This is, quite simply, the best spy novel I can remember reading in what must be many decades. Daniel Silva, in comparison, is writing books for middle school kids, and even Alan Furst pales slightly in comparison.
This impeccably structured novel revolves around Milo Weaver and his battles for identity and meaning within the world of "Tourism". Forget digital cameras and souvenirs, however; Weaver and his colleagues travel the world on behalf of a clandestine US intelligence agency, combatting global organized crime, terrorists and other miscellaneous enemies of the United States. We first meet Weaver as a burned out shell of a man, whose soul is being destroyed by what the job demands of him. Its early pages dart back and forth across a six-year-timespan, introducing us to key characters in the drama to follow, from fellow Tourists to his boss Tom Grainger, from the woman he loves and marries to the woman whose investigation into the death of a hired killer Weaver has been hunting, nicknamed the Tiger, threatens to derail his fragile happiness.
Each of those characters is carefully drawn and feels as vivid and 'real' as does Milo himself in his struggle to extricate himself from a trap to implicate him in murder and treason. Who orchestrates that conspiracy, for what reason and how it is resolved is at the heart of the plot. Steinhauer never strikes a false note in his writing or cuts corners in the intricate plot. Early on, as Milo muses about his profession, "the truth was that intelligence work seldom, if ever, ran in straight lines. Facts accumulated, many of them useless, some connecting and then disconnecting." Steinhauer, however, keeps each fact relevant, and carefully scatters clues to the novel's denouement along the path that the reader will follow. Never, however, does the outcome feel inevitable or predictable; nor are the clues so opaque that the reader feels frustrated or irritated.
"Tourism is all about storytelling. After a while you collect too many layers. It's hard to discern story from truth." In Steinhauer's capable hands, his story becomes the truth, to such an extent that when I finally put the book down with a sigh of regret, I almost headed off to Avenue of the Americas in search of Weaver's (fictional) Tourism Department headquarters. And I did download a bunch of 1960s and 1970s chanson of the kind that Weaver listens to obsessively to connect himself to the world of love and family even as he must wage a solitary battle in a much darker universe.
If Amazon allowed us to rate this six stars, I'd award them all to this book. Strongly recommended for anyone who enjoys a novel revolving around puzzles and intrigue, but especially for any fans of spy or suspense novels. A noirish tone complements the novel's plot beautifully. The only folks who won't enjoy this are those with a taste for black and white: heroes vs villains, and nary a trace of nuance. This is a book whose author navigates so deftly between those lines that we realize that while Milo may be a hero to us, we also accept sadly that his wife, Tina, is right to see him as a kind of villain.
A tour de force.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
In the post-Cold War days immediately prior to 9/11, Milo Weaver, a "tourist" for the CIA--an agent without a home base--dealt with issues like finding war criminals, watching émigré Russians living an extravagant style abroad, and looking for three million dollars thought to have been stolen by Frank Dawdle, the CIA station chief in Slovenia. Milo, a failed suicide addicted to Dexedrine, has seen too much violence and crime. Watching a Russian pedophile throw a thirteen-year-old girl off a balcony in Venice, seeing an influential CIA man betray his country, and being shot and nearly killed when that agent is murdered by another "tourist," has just about done him in.
Six years later, Milo is happily married to a woman whose life he saved, with a six year-old stepdaughter who adores him. Though he is no longer a "tourist," he is still working for the CIA, investigating "The Tiger," one of the most vicious killers in the world, an equal-opportunity assassin who has killed, among others, both an influential cleric in the Sudan and the French foreign minister. No one knows for whom he works. When Milo tracks him down, he learns that the Tiger has actually planned their meeting, deliberately leaving a trail for him because he wants to meet him. The Tiger wants Milo to find and kill the man who has commissioned all the international killings--and ultimately, the man who has arranged for the Tiger's own death.
The evolving action reveals much about the internecine squabbles within the CIA, between the CIA and Homeland Security, and between Congressmen and both organizations. The number of betrayals is astonishing, high level agents with personal rather than national agendas, double agents, agents who sell out each other, and trained agents who disappear to assume new identities and freelance on a global scale--for a fee. Homeland Security and the CIA distrust each other, and key information is not shared. Congressmen sometimes run their own investigations, and no one can be trusted.
As this intricately constructed novel moves back and forth in time, the reader must constantly consider several basic issues: Who is the Tiger? Who is Milo? And, finally, is the information that the author provides about these and other characters reliable, or is the author himself acting as a "double agent"? The reader must constantly act as a "tourist" here, accumulating hints but not knowing much definite information about Milo and other main characters until well into the novel. While this involves the reader in the action, the lack of certainty about some characters keeps them (especially Milo), at arm's length. Numerous aliases for important characters occasionally lead to confusion. Still, the novel is exciting as Steinhauer capably unites disparate threads to keep the suspense high and his readers involved. n Mary Whipple
The Bridge of Sighs: A Novel
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2012
Do yourself a favor and don't bother with this novel. Retread stereotypical characters, long-winded plot development, unsatisfactory resolution- this has got it all. An assassin called "The Tiger" , a dirty CIA head honcho that uses the code name "Carlos" - really?
People who are drawn to reading this are likely to have read some Le Carre, Ludlum, and even (in the case of the protagonists name, Milo) Kellerman. There is not an once of originality in this dreadful book.
I was coming off reading "The Expats" by Chris Pavone, which while not perfect I enjoyed immensely, so thought I'd stick with the genre for another go around- Fail. I'm really not that critical & generally pretty easy to please, but this really is awful- just don't.
43 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2010
I bought this book because somewhere I read that this author had been compared to Le Carre. As a loyal Le Carre fan who has read all of his novels, I am forever looking for something comparable. Well... this was not even close, though the author flatters himself by quoting from Le Carre, apparently wanting us to see parallels where none exist. For starters, this book is chock full of every imaginable spy novel cliche -- spoiler alert here, in case you actually decide to read it -- the big surprise is that all the awful, terrible things here were done by... wait for it... the evil CIA, in cooperation with... an evil Republican senator, in order to ... get the US more oil! Seriously, how many times has this been done? I kept hoping this was just a silly diversion but no, that's the plot. Very fitting that the movie rights would be bought by George Clooney, it's right up his alley.
The book is confusing not because the plot is complicated but because the author seems to get lost in the details. He also seemed unable to come up with an ending so it just kind of runs out of steam. I turned the page expecting to keep reading, but that was it. The book is also poorly edited and has grammatical errors, not to mention incorrect use of Russian names (I know, who cares, but I speak Russian so it bugged me). In short, save your money and re-read an old Le Carre book.
82 of 103 people found the following review helpful
My first thought in reading this book was the characters are too stereotyped. A married CIA agent in a bad marriage, his long suffering wife, his fatherly boss, the bad administrator trying to take over and so on. And of course CIA itself. Why must every CIA agent be in a bad marriage, is it a spy novel rule? There are numerous subplots, and the names to go with them, so that it gets confusing at times to remember is this Russian the good one or the bad one, how about this agent? The subplots often don't seem to add to the story, just to have more subplots. It doesn't help that you read a few paragraphs of a chapter before you realize its either set before or after the last chapter.
The book often reminded me of the show Burn Notice, when the author would say things such as "when you're a spy you learn to look for the exits when you first enter a building". I even found myself using the Burn Notice character, Michael Weston's voice when reading.
My main criticisms are, too much of the book was simply two people talking to each other, for example during an interrogation, to explain or extend or rehash the plot. By the time you get to the last rehash it becomes just brutal to get through as you are on page 400. The ending was about what you would predict, no surprises, no insight. The last interrogation leading to the ending just seems unrealistic. The main antagonist was able to manipulate everyone yet falls for a simple ploy anyone can see through. The ending is an anti-climax, no climax at all.
I'm sorry, but to compare this to John le Carre, like the cover of the book does, seems more publisher's hype than reality.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2012
If you like a book in which the characters are sometimes amazingly smart and superhumanly insightful, but only at the times required by the storyline to be so and at other times, when the plot and pace of the story needs them to be outlandishly stupid and hopelessly dull, they are just that, then The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer is the book for you. I am completely turned-off by this kind of sloppy plotting and unoriginal writing. Obviously smart people make mistakes, and dumb people occasionally do smart things, but the characters in this novel go well beyond those types of coincidences. I think the author expects his readers to get caught up in the action and not examine or really think about what is happening. He would probably make a great screenwriter.
My other problem with this book is Mr. Steinhauer's world view. He is of the opinion that the US is a bent on imperialism and is such an overpowering bully that "the terrorist are the only ones left in the world who will stand up to us." Mr. Steinhauer has plenty of company in this opinion and like minded people will almost certainly enjoy this book. I find it myopic and naive. Given the fact that this idea is the book's underlying premiss, it is difficult to take seriously and it is hard to enjoy something which you cannot take seriously.
So, to restate, if you believe that terrorist are the last bulwark of freedom and you don't mind characters who fluctuate between superhuman and subhuman intelligence, then The Tourist is just the book for you. Or if you are too lazy to read I am certain that it will soon becoming to a big screen near you. Look for Sean Penn, George Clooney or perhaps Matt Damon in the leading role.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
I like spy novels but The Tourist just did not cut it for me. The novel was engaging enough but rather average. It was not a real page turner.
The plot revolves around a rather interesting, odd, but somewhat likable character Milo Weaver. He was a "tourist" in the CIA, or an agent without a home, just kind of wandering around doing what needed to be done for The Agency. Having spent years as an assassin, chasing down those who the CIA wanted chased down, and doing all the dirty work one associates with a down and dirty secret service operative, Milo got strung out and almost strung up. He finally graduates to a desk job, gets married and has an adoptive daughter. Milo is liking the life of a spy with a home, behind a desk, with a family.
Milo's lifelong pursuit, both as a tourist and as a desk jockey, has been chasing down an assassin called "The Tiger." One day he is sent to investigate a report that The Tiger has been captured. But poor Milo, ever the one to blunder into trouble, is set up by The Tiger to chase down his a man who has "killed" him by injecting him with the HIV virus. As the story unravels it turns out that Milo's close friend in the CIA, Angela, has also been chasing the tiger by the tail, but in a way that puts her under suspicion for being a double agent. Milo doesn't believe it and gets further involved as he tries to determine whether or not she is innocent of this charge.
Then the action gets really crazy as Milo is chased by numerous agencies, from within the CIA and without, for actions that are revealed in the book but would be spoilers here. It gets pretty intricate, but never all that interesting. In fact, the most interesting part of the entire novel is when his wife, who knows he is in some secret agency but never quite knows what, gets dragged into his mess and finds out the real truth about his past. All the intrigue and drama, though, is rather bland for a spy novel. And while it's not boilerplate, in fact it is quite unique, it just did not click with this reader as being particularly believable or entertaining.
At the end, well, you will have to read the book to find that out, but suffice it to say that this is set up for another Milo adventure. I'm not so sure I'll be going on it with him, but I may.
28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2009
Highly trained special agents called Tourists work out of 4 secret floors on the Ave. of Americas. Tourists are on permanent travel status operating in all populated countries unquestionably carrying out orders whether they are dropping off a package or calling a number with a code word, or exterminating an opponent. Milo, the Tourist in the story finds it harder and harder to cope with the disembodiment of non residency. The longer he is a Tourist the harder it becomes to determine who he can trust. After some time his own employer called The Company is under suspicion. The novel starts out slowly, but soon had me unable to put it down.
An excerpt "All Tourists know the importance of awareness. When you enter a room or a park, you chart the escapes immediately. You take in the potential weapons around you - a chair, ballpoint pen, letter opener, or even the loose low hanging branch on a tree behind Milo's bench. At the same time you consider the faces. Are they aware of you? Or are they feigning a forced ignorance that is the hallmark of other Tourists? Because Tourists are seldom proactive, the best ones bring you to them."
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2011
It saddens me to see so many 5 and 4 star reviews for a work so blatantly mediocre. Has anyone read LeCarre, Littell, Furse? To compare The Tourist with even the least of the works of these authors would only make sense if you were to justify a 1-2 star review.
Steinhauer's prose is adequate. Adequate prose might carry an interesting, clever, character-driven plot in genre fiction. This is not the case here. The Tourist becomes less and less interesting as events unfold, which is an inexcusable crime in spy fiction. I literally lost all interest ten pages before the end and stopped reading.
The Tourist reaches its "crescendo" by means of lengthy, revelatory dialogues, rather than culmination of tension and resolution. The only thing that culminates in the end is the sense of boredom. And yes, the surprise ending boils down to the realization of just how much time I wasted trying to give this book a chance.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2011
THE TOURIST is a welcome breath of fresh air in an overcrowded genre of post-9/11 spy thrillers. This is not your cookie-cutter CIA vs Al-Qaeda fare, but a well-crafted, and very original, novel. Mr. Steinhauer also created an interesting character in Milo Weaver, although he's not in the same league as, say, Gabriel Allon or Nicholai Hel.
While the book is beautifully written, a few flaws turn an otherwise solid effort into a bit of a letdown. The prose is stylish, but attempts to make it literary sometimes become overly melodramatic or just awkward. One such clanger of a sentence is: "The head raised." Hmmm...
The author thanks his French translator from helping him out, but unfortunately he had no one to fix the Russian. Almost every use of Russian is wrong. Also, the Russian villain named Ugrimov has some lines of dialogue that make him appear more like a cliche'd copy of Count Dracula than a dodgy Russian businessman.
The main issue with THE TOURIST, however, is that the actual plot is not as strong as the novel's core concept and mythology. Milo Weaver has to untangle a conspiracy, but he does it wandering aimlessly and hoping for the best. In the key scene with Ugrimov, the narrative gives away its main plot device: "It was an incredible piece of luck..." Incredible, indeed -- even more so with the author and the protagonist sharing the reader's incredulity. Milo Weaver's luck drives the story on, as those involved in the conspiracy spill the beans too eagerly.
Finally, the ending was too anticlimactic for me. The plot grinds to a pedestrian pace in the last 100 pages -- which comes as a surprise because the book isn't very action-packed and you'd expect it to become a bit more lively towards the end. This is compounded by Milo Weaver virtually disappearing from the novel as other characters try to figure things out. It all works out quite well without too much effort. "This is ridiculous," says Weaver a few pages from the end as he learns how nicely everything fell into place. I could hardly disagree.
Overall, the book frustrates more than it impresses.