Book Review: The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer

The Cairo AffairThe Cairo Affair
Olen Steinhauer
Picador, January 2015
ISBN: 978-1-250-03615-5
Trade Paperback

Life in the espionage world is never what it seems to be.  And that is certainly the case in this superb spy novel which follows the excellent Milo Weaver trilogy which ended with The Tourist. This story begins in Virginia, at CIA headquarters, where a Libyan-American analyst convinces himself that an old plan, called Stumbler, which he had devised years before, but was shelved, to overthrow the dictator, Muammar Gadhafi, was apparently being implemented.

However, the main thrust of the plot involves the machinations of the various intelligence services: the CIA, Egyptian and, of course, Libyan. The main characters include an American diplomatic couple, various agents of the intelligence services, and of course, the analyst who travels to Egypt to enter Libya and contact his underground network to boost the plan.

The author has created a magnificently intriguing plot, filled with an inside look on how intelligence is gathered and disseminated. His portrayal of the various characters leaves the reader with substantial insight into the motivations, including both patriotism and greed, of those involved in spy craft. In his examination of why the various participants act as they do, he not only delves deeply into their psyches, but looks profoundly at the moral issues. Don’t let the length of the novel put you off. It reads swiftly and enjoyably, and is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2015.