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91 of 100 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Qisas - a settling of accounts - at the end of a desert road, February 5, 2014
This review is from: The Cairo Affair (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As has been mentioned by at least one other reviewer, THE CAIRO AFFAIR by Olen Steinhauer is reminiscent of the espionage novels by John le Carré and Len Deighton, which focus more on the nuts and bolts of the spy game rather than dramatic action. This isn't a thriller, but, as a complex story with a beginning, middle, and end involving multiple, realistic characters and questions to be answered, it's commendably satisfying. Thus, THE CAIRO AFFAIR separates itself from another spy procedural I recently read, Dynamite Fishermen, which incorporated no mystery or conflict between antagonists worth mentioning and was, I think, much the inferior book for those reasons.

THE CAIRO AFFAIR also resembles the novels by Gerald Seymour in that there's no clear winner among the players, none of whom might be considered heroes or villains in the usual sense constructed in popular fiction, and whatever victory is achieved is perhaps Pyrrhic in nature.

Olen Steinhauer's perspective in his espionage novels that I've read to date is relatively unique for an American writer. From his first series set in Eastern Europe, I thought he was a European national, but later learned that he was raised in Virginia but lived for a while in Budapest. This apparently gives him a worldview that frees him from a de rigueur focus on the U.S. or British spy agencies in his plots. True, the CIA plays a key role in THE CAIRO AFFAIR, but in the end the Egyptian intelligence service takes center stage. I appreciate that lack of provincialism.

A key component of the plot is the lead-up to the recent overthrow of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. This caused me to pause briefly to consider the change in spy novel venues since I began reading them Back in The Day, i.e. the time of the Cold War when the chief antagonist (from a Western standpoint) was almost always the Machiavellian Soviet KGB and the battleground like as not somewhere in the ideological trenches of Europe. How times have changed! After years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wonder more than just a little if the average American thriller reader is left caring much about what happened in Libya, what's happening now in Syria, or the sectarian Muslim violence sure to escalate in a Hussein-free Iraq and in a U.S.-vacated Afghanistan; it's either weariness with the constant, deadly bickering and/or a growing isolationism. Happily, the intricacy and ingenuity of THE CAIRO AFFAIR storyline mitigated any lack of vested interest or sympathy I personally felt for the time and place.

Steinhauer is a major talent in the genre. I'll continue to read whatever he writes.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 20, 2014 7:54:11 AM PDT
H. Foster says:
After muddling through all his "gaff" I derived the fact that he enjoyed the book!!!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2014 10:23:31 AM PDT
H. Forster,

Thank you for noticing!
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