All the Old Knives: Book summary and reviews of All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer

All the Old Knives

by Olen Steinhauer

All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer X
All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer
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  • Published Mar 2015
    224 pages
    Genre: Thrillers

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Book Summary

Nine years ago, terrorists hijacked a plane in Vienna. Somehow, a rescue attempt staged from the inside went terribly wrong and everyone on board was killed.

Members of the CIA stationed in Vienna during that time were witness to this terrible tragedy, gathering intel from their sources during those tense hours, assimilating facts from the ground with a series of texts coming from one of their agents inside the plane. So when it all went wrong, the question had to be asked: Had their agent been compromised, and how?

Two of those agents, Henry Pelham and Celia Harrison, were lovers at the time, and in fact that was the last night they spent together. Until now. That night Celia decided she'd had enough; she left the agency, married and had children, and is living an ordinary life in the suburbs. Henry is still an analyst, and has traveled to California to see her one more time, to relive the past, maybe, or to put it behind him once and for all.

But neither of them can forget that long-ago question: Had their agent been compromised, and how? And each of them also wonders what role tonight's dinner companion might have played in the way things unfolded.

All the Old Knives is Olen Steinhauer's most intimate, most cerebral, and most shocking novel to date - from the New York Times bestselling author deemed by many to be John le Carré's heir apparent.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Readers hooked on the jolt of adrenaline that typically accompanies Steinhauer's intelligent thrillers needn't fear the highfalutin backstory: though this does essentially take place over the course of a single meal, it delivers intrigue, suspense, and a heart-stopping finale. In his acknowledgments, Steinhauer tells us he wrote it in one month. You'll devour it in one night." - Booklist

"Starred Review… Steinhauer is a very fine writer and an excellent observer of human nature, shrewd about the pleasures and perils of spying." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. This genre-bending spy novel takes Hitchcockian suspense to new heights. Over the course of a meal with flashbacks, the eternal questions of trust, loyalty, and authentic love are deftly dissected. Readers drawn to the story of a loving couple trapped in a terrible embrace will be thrilled to follow Henry and Celia's tortured pas de demux." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. It's an understatement to say that nothing is as it seems, but even readers well-versed in espionage fiction will be pleasantly surprised by Steinhauer's plot twists and double backs." - Kirkus

This information about All the Old Knives was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Mary B. (St Paul, MN)

ALL THE OLD KNIVES
I enjoyed this book very much. I have read two other books by Olen Steinhauer and liked them very much. All the Old Knives takes place in one small setting with two main characters, but it has all the suspense and intrigue that Mr Steinhauer's other books generate. Although the premise of the two main characters getting together seems uneventful it is anything but as the story and the mystery unfolds. The story is told in both characters voices and thoughts as they relive a certain event. As the story goes back and forth between the two, the reader is unsure of their motives and the eventual outcome. A very good read.

Maggie R. (Canoga Park, CA)

Another winner from Olen Steinhauer
I read and loved the Milo Weaver trilogy and The Cairo Affair. The Old Knives is something different. Shorter, with a more compact but still twisty plot, fewer characters but intrigueing. When I finished, I wanted to go back and reread to catch the clues and misdirections. Highly recommended for espionage fans and for those who are not yet sold.

Alison F. (Clearwater, FL)

Dinner for old times' sake
Olen Steinhauer's All the Old Knives turns a spy thriller into a study of the characters of two spies, one active and one now retired. They are also former lovers and purportedly are getting together to catch up and rehash theories regarding a terrorist incident in Vienna. But spy motives are never as they seem and over the course of their get-together dinner we wonder who is playing who as we learn the circumstances surrounding their relationship and the terrorist event. Not a traditional spy thriller, this book kept me on edge and made me uncomfortable observing their dinner, not unlike Herman Koch's The Dinner. The framework of the evening worked well to tell this whodunit and the tension built throughout the evening to its sad conclusion. I recommend reading it in a sitting or two but it is compelling enough to make this easy. Recommend highly!

Mary Ellen L. (Canfield, OH)

All the Old Knives
Although a long time fan of mystery thrillers, this was my first read by Olen Steinhauer. I started the first few chapters, then put it aside until I had more time. I soon discovered, however, that although this is not a lengthy novel, it is best read in one or two sittings, due to the intricacies of a complex plot and characters. It is also a most unique thriller with an unusual plot presentation during the reunion dinner of its two main characters. Definitely worth that one-sitting read.

Patricia K. (Oak Park, CA)

All the Old Knives
All The Old Knives was a good read. It was a quick book, I read it in two days. The setting is unusual for a spy story, mostly over dinner, with the events that brought the old lovers to dinner slowly unfolding throughout the evening.

What really hit me was how perfect the title for the book is. From Phaedrus "all the old knives that have rusted in my back, I drive in yours", sets the stage for the story. This was my first Olen Stenhauer book, and I will read more.

Mike H. (Knoxville, TN)

All the Old Knives
Once again, Steinhauer succeeds in keeping me up late! This book is a quick read but very gripping. Just when you think you have figured out 'whodunnit' he drops another bomb. The style is very interesting-each chapter is written from one character's perspective. Once you reach the half-way point in the book, be prepared to finish it in one reading because you won't be able to put it down!

...14 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Olen Steinhauer Author Biography

Photo: Nancy Crampton

Olen Steinhauer grew up in Virginia, and has lived throughout the US and Europe. He spent a year in Romania on a Fulbright grant, an experience that helped inspire his first five books. He now splits his time between Hungary and New York with his wife and daughter.

His first novel, The Bridge of Sighs (2003), began a five-book sequence chronicling Cold War Eastern Europe, one book per decade. It was nominated for five awards. The rest of the sequence includes: The Confession, 36 Yalta Boulevard (The Vienna Assignment in the UK), Liberation Movements (The Istanbul Variations in the UK)—this one was nominated for an Edgar Award for best novel of the year—and Victory Square, which was a New York Times editor's choice.

With The Tourist (2009), he began a trilogy of spy tales ...

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