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The Cairo Affair: A Novel Hardcover – March 18, 2014
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2014: At a time when brutal Norwegian murder mysteries are still in fashion, it’s nice to get lost in a brainy, page-turner of a spy story, one that feels both classic and fresh. This is Steinhauer’s ninth novel, the first since his successful Tourist trilogy. A standalone, The Cairo Affair feels timely and relevant, cleverly relying on recent world events--a Wikileaks transcript, Gaddafi’s overthrow, the Arab Spring. More than an espionage thriller, this is a complicated geo-political story and, at its core, the story of a flawed marriage, full of betrayals and dangerous lies. It’s also an ambitious undertaking for Steinhauer. While his Tourist series featured rogue CIA agent Milo Weaver, The Cairo Affair is a complex narrative, entwining the stories of multiple characters, primarily a disloyal wife, her ex-lover, an Egyptian intelligence agent, and a CIA analyst. Pinballing across time and place, from Hungary to Libya, Yugoslavia to Egypt, featuring spooks named Rainman, Stumbler, and Sledgehammer, the puzzle pieces come together in a moody, low-tech, and unpredictable reveal. Having followed Steinhauer’s trajectory over the years, it’s a pleasure to experience a writer pushing himself--into le Carre territory, no less. --Neal Thompson
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
As the story begins, American diplomat Emmett Kohl is brutally murdered in front of his wife Sophia as they're dining at a French restaurant in Hungary. This sets off a ripple of events that spreads through the international intelligence community as the agencies of several countries get involved in trying to find out why this act of brutality took place.
Did it have something to do with Sophia's illicit extra-marital affair with an American spook based in Cairo? Emmett's knowledge of an aborted CIA op known as "Stumbler", conceived to overthrow the tyrannical regime of Muammar Khaddafi? Was it an echo of something that Emmett and Sophia became embroiled in decades ago when, as a young newly-married couple they'd gone adventure-seeking in Yugoslavia as that country's civil war was just breaking out?
These questions, and several more, are the nexus around which the plot of this story revolves. We follow the investigation as players from several countries try to resolve them; Egyptian agents and officers, CIA operators, even Sophia herself.
It's an engaging tale, but certainly not a "thriller", if that's what you're looking for. It's more a "procedural" story, with some complex turns.
The characterizations are, for the most part, full and effective. The portrayal of the complexity of the espionage game is certainly reminiscent of Le Carre or Deighton, as I said, and Graham Greene also comes to mind.Read more ›
The constant comparison here is with LeCarre, which I believe is to mean "cerebral", and to give credit where credit is due, this isn't a "mindless romp", (and to lend further credence to the comparison, an "amateur" dives into the murky depths of the espionage world after a harrowing event.) But the one sharp constant note here and the driving force behind the plot of The Cairo Affair is betrayal - lots and lots of betrayal. (This "friend or foe" is a prevalent theme in the Steinhauer books I have read, with characters/protagonists constantly looking over their shoulders.)
So unfortunately the end result is not only a muddled, but a very predictable and repetitive story-line. The steam long gone by the book's disappointing fizzle of a conclusion, and proof positive of Occam's razor.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It is okay. Just a bit rambling, farfetched and ... well odd.Published 2 months ago by Clark E. Ratliffe
I read 250 pages before putting it down. I frankly just didn't care how it ends. The usual junk fiction cliches and 2 dimensional character development found in most fiction. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Anthony Clare
characters are not well developed, story is predictable and not truly believable read it if you have nothing else to read.Published 3 months ago by Canela4u
I found it an enjoyable read. Steinhauer took the tried and true espionage novel and took it into the political chaos of the 'Arab Spring'. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer