The Cairo Affair: Book summary and reviews of The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer

The Cairo Affair

by Olen Steinhauer

The Cairo Affair
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2014
    400 pages
    Genre: Thrillers

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Book Summary

Sophie Kohl is living her worst nightmare. Minutes after she confesses to her husband, Emmett, a mid-level diplomat at the American embassy in Hungary, that she had an affair while they were in Cairo, he is shot in the head and killed.

Stan Bertolli, a Cairo-based CIA agent, has fielded his share of midnight calls. But his heart skips a beat when, this time, he hears the voice of the only woman he ever truly loved, calling to ask why her husband has been assassinated.

Omar Halawi has worked in Egyptian intelligence for years, and he knows how to play the game. Foreign agents pass him occasional information, he returns the favor, and everyone's happy. But the murder of a diplomat in Hungary has ripples all the way to Cairo, and Omar must follow the fall-out wherever it leads.

American analyst Jibril Aziz knows more about Stumbler, a covert operation rejected by the CIA years ago, than anyone. So when it appears someone else has obtained a copy of the blueprints, Jibril alone knows the danger it represents.

As these players converge on the city of Cairo, Olen Steinhauer's masterful manipulations slowly unveil a portrait of a marriage, a jigsaw puzzle of loyalty and betrayal, against a dangerous world of political games where allegiances are never clear and outcomes are never guaranteed.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"...the novel is like a Franck Muller watch, a construct of beauty—but metallic and cold. No matter. One marvels at the intricacy of its imagination and the elegance of its maker's craftsmanship." - Publishers Weekly

"Readers yearning for a fiendishly complex plot, penetrating characterizations, and a new warrior in the ancient struggle between anomie and truth will welcome Sophie and her brash courage." - Library Journal

"Could easily dispense with a third of the pages in this le Carré wannabe." - Kirkus

"A genuine page turner - cleverly conceived and intricately plotted. Steinhauer juggles political and personal loyalties with a master storyteller's sleight of hand." - Joseph Kanon

"The Cairo Affair is the espionage novel at its best, packed with betrayals, double-crosses, hidden agendas, moral conflicts, international relations, and even a delectable double-entendre of a title." - Chris Pavone

The information about The Cairo Affair shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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George M. (Antioch, CA)

The Cairo Affair. Extraordinary
From the very first sentence I was pulled into a tense and exciting thriller, reminiscent of Le Carre. What a white knuckle adventure, set in today's Arab turmoil. A tale of romance. Of intrigue. Of betrayal. The Cairo Affair is something to be savored. Take your time reading it, because you will not want it to end.

Maggie R. (Canoga Park, CA)

Steinhauer does it again
I became a fan through the Milo Weaver trilogy. The Cairo Affair convinced me that even with a new cast of characters, Steinhauer concocts a fine tale that depicts an almost alternate universe. A definite must read for those who like to become lost in the worlds of LeCarre and the less often mentioned Charles McCarry.

Rosemary C. (Austin, TX)

Intriguing and multi-layered
Steinhauer sets a fast-paced tone, develops his interesting and, at times, sympathetic characters, and shows the world of espionage and its political ramifications from multiple points of view. Set against the backdrop of current events in the Middle East, the novel is relevant and instructive as well as exciting.

Sandy P. (Gainesville, FL)

Well worth your time
The story centers around "Stumbler" an American plan to orchestrate a regime change in Libya. Or is it the Americans enacting Stumbler? The prime characters: Emmett and Sophie Kohl, John Calhoun, Stan Bertolli, Zora Balasevic, Ali Busiri and Omar Halawi all appear to have something to hide and their own agendas. "Are you saying he was one of ours?" Quite a bit of cross and double cross which makes for a very entertaining book.

Chris W. (Temple City, CA)

spy thriller
The plot kept my interest and I appreciated this timely story being told from several points of view. I would have benefited from a map of the regions and a timeline of that period of history, just to add to my understanding of the historical background. The characters were not fully developed but were believable. There is much to discuss for book clubs and others about ever-changing international events, America's involvement or lack of involvement in those events, the idealism of spies, what attracts some people to immoral behavior, how people's world views and philosophy change over time, etc. There are a lot of characters to remember. For me, it was a page turner and I enjoyed the surprises along the way. I will look for more books by this author.

Lauren C. (Los Angeles, CA)

Really excellent spy mystery novel
A Libyan-American desk agent with the CIA realizes that someone has been implementing a plan to topple the Libyan government that he developed several years earlier. He starts to investigate. This leads to a string of murders and disappearances.

If you like spy novels, you'll love this one. I found it to be extremely well-written. The narrative unfolds from the point of view of several different characters. What makes it so interesting is that each person knows only a piece of what is going on-- or thinks they do. Often their information is incorrect, or they lie to others about what they know. No one has the entire picture. This creates a very effective mystery, where even the reader isn't sure which information is correct, or is led to believe that one scenario is correct only to find that the person relaying the information didn't know what was going on.

Highly recommended.

...30 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 U.S. and Europe. He spent a year in Romania on a Fulbright grant, an experience that helped inspire his first five books. He now lives in Hungary 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 focused on ...

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