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.

The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer now in paperback

If for some odd reason you are reading this blog and have not yet read Olen Steinhauer’s The Tourist please rectify that ASAP.

This may seem a tad pushy but, trust me, I am doing you a favor.

The paperback is out today (and you can buy an ebook as well) so you really have no excuse at this point.

As I said in my review:

What makes Steinhauer different from so many writers of international thrillers is his ability to write a suspenseful espionage plot and yet still have elements of the more literary aspect of novels.  The writing is tight and even graceful at times.  The characters are not cardboard cutouts and Steinhauer delves into their psychological make up and personality for more than just plot plausibility.

And Olen has provided some hand picked music to go with the release. So head over there and get your The Tourist iMix

So stop by your local bookstore or click on the link above and read The Tourist so you are ready when  The Nearest Exit comes out in May.

Booklist review of The Nearest Exit below.

Continue reading

The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer now in paperback

If for some odd reason you are reading this blog and have not yet read Olen Steinhauer’s The Tourist please rectify that ASAP.

This may seem a tad pushy but, trust me, I am doing you a favor.

The paperback is out today (and you can buy an ebook as well) so you really have no excuse at this point.

As I said in my review:

What makes Steinhauer different from so many writers of international thrillers is his ability to write a suspenseful espionage plot and yet still have elements of the more literary aspect of novels.  The writing is tight and even graceful at times.  The characters are not cardboard cutouts and Steinhauer delves into their psychological make up and personality for more than just plot plausibility.

And Olen has provided some hand picked music to go with the release. So head over there and get your The Tourist iMix

So stop by your local bookstore or click on the link above and read The Tourist so you are ready when  The Nearest Exit comes out in May.

Booklist review of The Nearest Exit below.

Continue reading

Red To Black by Alex Dryden

Red to Black by Alex Dryden seems to be clearly aiming for the blend of current events and espionage made famous by John Le Care but Dryden adds in a large dose of love story.

It also has the feel of an indictment of Vladimir Putin‘s Russia, and a castigation of the West’s response, in fiction form. Put it all together and it makes for an interesting read; some of it works very well other aspects less well.

Here is a video trailer for the book:

For the more textual among us here is the blurb:

Finn is a veteran MI6 operative stationed in Moscow. In the guise of an amiable trade secretary, he has penetrated deep into the dangerous labyrinth that is Russia under Vladimir Putin to discover some of its darkest secrets, thanks to a high-level source deep within the Kremlin.

The youngest female colonel in the KGB, Anna is the ambitious daughter of one of the former Soviet Union’s elite espionage families. Charged with helping to make Russia strong again under Putin, she is ordered to spy on Finn and discover the identity of his mole.

At the dawn of the new millennium, these adversaries find themselves brought together by an unexpected love that becomes the only truth they can trust. When Finn uncovers a shocking and ingenious plan—hatched in the depths of the Cold War—to control the European continent and shift the balance of world power, he and Anna are thrust into a deadly plot in which friend and foe wear the same face. With time running out, they will race across Europe and risk every-thing—career, reputation, and even their own lives—to expose the terrifying truth.

For my take see below.

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Red To Black by Alex Dryden

Red to Black by Alex Dryden seems to be clearly aiming for the blend of current events and espionage made famous by John Le Care but Dryden adds in a large dose of love story.

It also has the feel of an indictment of Vladimir Putin‘s Russia, and a castigation of the West’s response, in fiction form. Put it all together and it makes for an interesting read; some of it works very well other aspects less well.

Here is a video trailer for the book:

For the more textual among us here is the blurb:

Finn is a veteran MI6 operative stationed in Moscow. In the guise of an amiable trade secretary, he has penetrated deep into the dangerous labyrinth that is Russia under Vladimir Putin to discover some of its darkest secrets, thanks to a high-level source deep within the Kremlin.

The youngest female colonel in the KGB, Anna is the ambitious daughter of one of the former Soviet Union’s elite espionage families. Charged with helping to make Russia strong again under Putin, she is ordered to spy on Finn and discover the identity of his mole.

At the dawn of the new millennium, these adversaries find themselves brought together by an unexpected love that becomes the only truth they can trust. When Finn uncovers a shocking and ingenious plan—hatched in the depths of the Cold War—to control the European continent and shift the balance of world power, he and Anna are thrust into a deadly plot in which friend and foe wear the same face. With time running out, they will race across Europe and risk every-thing—career, reputation, and even their own lives—to expose the terrifying truth.

For my take see below.

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Banquo's Ghosts by Richard Lowry & Keith Korman

banquos-ghost

I have to admit, I was shocked to find out that National Review editor Rich Lowry had co-written a novel.  I just didn’t picture him as the novel writing type.  Of course, he had the help of literary agent Keith Korman.  But still a surprising project. For thos unfamiliar with the book here is the PW set up:

Unlikely hero Peter Johnson, a mildly buffoonish writer working for the Crusader, a left-wing magazine, is recruited by CIA agent Stewart Banquo for the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist. Banquo figures no one would ever suspect Johnson, known for his drunkenness and willingness to take a bribe, to be working for the CIA. Johnson, who accepts the job for a variety of reasons, heads off to Iran. A series of double crosses lands Johnson in the hands of the Iranians and sets up the rest of the plot involving a chillingly plausible terrorist attack.

And so my curiosity piqued, I decided to give it a read.   Banquo’s Ghosts turned out to be a entertaining thriller with a distinct political style to it.  This part is not surprising.  In many ways Lowry is following in the footsteps of the man he succeeded at NR: William F. Buckley; who wrote a number of espionage thrillers with strong contemporary political undercurrents.

For more see below.

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