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The Cairo Affair: A Novel
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on April 18, 2014
Steinhauer's first 5 books were unique and interesting, a new way to develop stories and tie it all in in the final book with a historical mix. His next 3 book trilogy with Milo Weaver was simply outstanding, as good as it gets, right there with LeCarre, Forsyth and Greene as authors. This book was so disappointing, character buildup poor, characters themselves uninteresting, not sure what his point was in writing the book. The Stan and Sofie relationship shallow, would have liked to see more on Emmit as to character development, and the plot line was disjointed.
Simply put, to much about a weak immoral Sofia, a poor weak uninteresting character in Stan, and no main positive character who takes charge in the book. Mr Steinhauer, please go back to Milo Weaver's character
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 25, 2015
“In only three days, five politically active Libyan exiles vanished from the face of the earth” in different countries around the globe. Thus opens The Cairo Affair, a complex, multilayered spy novel featuring a young American couple, Sophie and Emmett Kohl — a mid-ranked diplomat and his wife of twenty years, a housewife, recently relocated from Cairo to Budapest. Somehow, the Kohls are connected to the disappearance of those five Libyans. Therein lies the tale.

With consummate skill, Olen Steinhauer relates the tale of Sophie and Emmett through a mind-bending series of chapters, alternating from the point of view of one of the principal characters to another: Sophie and four men, all intelligence agents, who play major roles in her slowly growing understanding of how her life and that of her husband are linked to the Libyans. It’s a masterful display of plotting, not always fully unpredictable but nonetheless surprising to the very end. The action moves from Cairo to Budapest to Germany and the Libyan desert.

This is spy fiction at its best.

The Cairo Affair is the ninth of Olen Steinhauer’s ten spy novels. He began his career with a brilliant five-book cycle of thrillers set in a fictional Eastern European country that artfully portrayed a society under Communism, with one novel for each of the five decades starting with the 1940s. (You can find reviews of all five on this blog.) Later, he wrote a trilogy of best-selling stories featuring Milo Weaver of the CIA, which top reviewers ranked with John Le Carre’s classic spy novels as the best in the genre.
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on December 2, 2014
Once again we have a book dealing with the well thread path dealing with the insidious lure of corruption afflicting human behaviour. However, the book present a powerful and realistic description of subversive ethnic tension in a country where different ethnic groups were forced to accept each other and live in harmony, regardless despised cultural differences, in order to maintain the political status quo. The horrific consequences described by the author are only some of the atrocity that actually took place.

Subtly the book compels the readers to reassess their political and social values and it incites to question beliefs and motives. One cannot help but wonder whether the presence of different cultural groups in any society could arise negative feelings and aggressive behaviour in the main stream population at the first sign of a domestic crisis.
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on November 18, 2014
This book has great plot development and nonstop action. Read this after my second Gabriel Alllon novel and this author has joined my top favorites. About halfway through The Tourist, first of the Milo Weaver trilogy, and it's another hard to put down book. Prior to getting my kindle in June I used to read 2 books a month and now I read 2 a week. If you enjoy thrilling espionage stories you'll like this book.
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on March 31, 2014
The clarity of the distinct voices from which Olen Steinhauer unfurls this complex novel of "intelligence" are a revelation to me. Sophie Kohl's voice is grieving, sophisticated, guilt-tinged and resilient, as she pursues answers to the murder of her diplomat husband, whom she has betrayed in more ways than one. Stan Bertolli's voice is hungry, American, sly, as he lies and hides and consumes Sophie, utterly oblivious to his own imminent danger. Omar Halawi's voice is weary, Egyptian, tough and kind while he pursues the traitors and killers behind the Libyan counter-insurgency desperately defending the last days of Muammar Qadafi's dictatorship.

Steinhauer's writing is at the top of his game in this superb novel. Every form of betrayal falls from the pages like petals slowly dropping from a beautiful dying rose. Complex characters hesitantly unwind their stories, tangled between past and present, yet slowly getting to the crux, the nub, the moments where a single act becomes the fulcrum of an entire life. In The Cairo Affair, the author has gone beyond Le Carre, into his own unique atmosphere that pulls one inexorably, page after page, bleary-eyed, through the murky shadows towards the light.
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on January 2, 2015
This is a novel centered in Cairo but involving Hungry and the Balkans and written in a style reminiscent of John le Carre but with much more violence.. It involves an American Diplomat, his wife, and various intelligence agencies belonging to the US, Egypt, Libya and others and revolves around the murder of the American Diplomat and the intrigues involving his wife's attempt to solve it. Throw in marital betrayal, treason, the Balkan War in flashbacks, the Arab Spring uprisings, and the complex relationships between the "friendly" agencies and one has, to paraphrase Mr. Churchill, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. It's well written, the plot is well thought out, the solution cloaked and an enjoyable read. A warning: pay attention as if one doesn't the foreign names will make things confusing.
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on March 15, 2015
With the recent Arab Spring as a backdrop, Steinhauer brings to life multiple multi-faceted characters from security services as diverse as Hungary, Serbia and Egypt in this gripping thriller of the CIA station in Cairo and the murder of an American diplomat in Budapest. Sounds like a cliché , but it's true you don't want to put this down until you finish it.
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on July 6, 2014
The author does good characters and captures the feel of various places well. But there isn't really a main character to the story as the book keeps shifting perspectives. The closest we get is Sophie Kohl who is the weakest of all the characters. She's highly self centered, and apathetic. So it's hard to get too involved in her story. The main thing that kept me reading was to discover the "big secret" from Sophie and her husband Emmet's past that is connected to Emmet's murder at the very beginning of the story. This one was close to being very good, but it never quite fit over the top.
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on May 7, 2014
I have read Steinhauer's The Tourist and really liked it. For some reason, I never got around to the sequel, but after reading this one I think I will get back to that. This book reminded me just how good Steinhauer is at pacing a story and weaving in a lot of complex elements. My favorite part of this book was how the different book sections ended up telling me this story from the perspective of each key player. The most interesting element in this was you would have a reveal from one character's perspective, and then a section jump to how the next character led to their reveal or what they did in parallel to the story. The ability of Steinhauer to weave together about five main characters into a cohesive story and make me feel like I knew each of them was impressive as most authors struggle to get me to like a single character.
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on February 4, 2017
This is a carefully plotted spy/mystery story with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged constantly. No, it is not Literature, nor does it try to be. It's well crafted, culturally informed, and exciting without being gimmicky or full of deus ex machina contrivances that plague many books in this genre.
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