The Nearest Exit by Olen Steinhauer

I am a big fan of Steinhauer and was really looking forward to this second book in The Tourist series The Nearest Exit. I usually read them in ARC format before they are released but I have been so busy that I actually bought this one weeks after it had been released.

Booklist had a nice recap/review

Since the events of The Tourist (2009), Milo Weaver has served time in prison, worked in administration, and tried to reconnect with his wife and daughter. But talk therapy is hard when you’re trained to keep secrets. When asked to return to the field, he agrees, although, because of his disgust with the Department of Tourism (a black-ops branch of the CIA), he plans to feed information to his father, Yevgeny Primakov, the “secret ear” of the UN. But his handlers don’t trust him, either, giving him a series of vetting assignments that culminates in an impossible loyalty test: the abduction and murder of a 15-year-old girl. Ironically, Weaver is then tasked with finding a security breach that threatens the very existence of Tourism—and the lives of the Tourists. Seeing his own brutal compatriots as humans, he does his best to save the thing he despises, a conundrum that pretty much sums up the shades of gray that paint this modern-day espionage masterpiece.
The Tourist was impressive, proving that Steinhauer had the ability to leap from the historical setting of his excellent Eastern European quintet to a vividly imagined contemporary landscape. But this is even better, a dazzling, dizzyingly complex world of clandestine warfare that is complicated further by the affairs of the heart. Steinhauer never forgets the human lives at stake, and that, perhaps, is the now-older Weaver’s flaw: he is too human, too attached, to be the perfect spy. His failure to save the girl he was told to kill threads the whole book like barbed wire.

My quick take? It was great – I expected nothing less from Olen of course! –  an intelligent and literary thriller. This one seemed even more focused on the psychological and emotional (Milo’s marriage, what it means to be a Tourist, etc.) even as it explored the complicated world of Post Cold War espionage and foreign affairs.   Just as you think you have a handle on the plot there is a twist at the end that keeps you guessing.  There is a depth to the emotional and moral element however, that gives the spy thriller aspect added heft.  I think I might need to re-read this one to fully appreciate it.

So if you are looking for something to read this summer and for some bizzare reason haven’t yet read Steinhauer I suggest you rectify that as soon as possible.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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