Novelist Olen Steinhauer offers up a standalone effort, not part of his Tourist series, with the complex novel, The Cairo Affair which features a ripped from today’s headlines back drop of the Arab Spring.
Steinhauer tells the story of a murdered diplomat, his traitorous wife and the inner workings and relationships involved in spy tradecraft from multiple perspectives. Like the layers of an onion, he skillfully peels back the details of the story, revealing new information as he serves up the same story from a variety of perspectives.
He drops the hammer early when a mild mannered American diplomat, Emmett Kohl confronts his wife about an affair in French restaurant in Hungary of all places when they are confronted by a large, dark figure who grunts to Kohl, that he is “here for you.” A couple of muted pistol blasts and the story is launched.
If you like your spy novels with a healthy dose of adrenaline laden action then you may find The Cairo Affair a bit plodding in its presentation, but I found Steinhauer’s crafty use of steadily chumming the water with new bits of story an interesting way to build tension into the story makes this a winning effort.