The Cairo Affair
by Olen Steinhauer
*Starred Review* One of the two best espionage novelists working today, Steinhauer follows his acclaimed Milo Weaver trilogy with a stunning stand-alone that is as emotionally rich as it is layered with intrigue. Budapest, March 2011: career diplomat Emmett Kohl is shot dead in a restaurant, in front of his disbelieving wife, Sophie. Determined to find out why, she follows a trail that leads to the American embassy in a tumultuous Cairo; to the revolution under way in neighboring Libya; to Langley, Virginia; and to her own ill-fated honeymoon in Eastern Europe. It has something to do with "Stumbler," a CIA plan for regime change, but, as we shadow a half-dozen key players, the hows and whys prove maddeningly elusive?and, in the words of a veteran spy: "When you live in a house of mirrors, the only way to stay alive is to believe that every reflection is real." A complex tale of the Arab Spring, WikiLeaks, the CIA, and a marriage, this leaves us with the unsettling feeling that, despite all the information won, lost, hoarded, and put to use, the world of intelligence is no stronger than the fragile, fallible humans who navigate it. It has become de rigeur to compare Steinhauer to le Carré, but it's nearly time to pass the torch: for the next generation, it's Steinhauer who will become the standard by which others are measured.
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