Excerpt from The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Tourist

by Olen Steinhauer

The Tourist
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2009, 416 pages
    Feb 2010, 416 pages

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“I need a break, Tom.”

“It’ll be like a vacation. Angela Yates is your contact—she works out of Dawdle’s office. A familiar face. Afterward, stay around and enjoy the water.”

As Grainger droned on, outlining the job with minimal details, his stomach had started to hurt, as it still did now, a sharp pain. If the one immutable law of existence is to exist, then does that make the opposite some sort of crime?

No. Suicide- as- crime would require that nature recognize good and evil. Nature only recognizes balance and imbalance.

Maybe that was the crucial point—balance. He’d slipped to some secluded corner of the extremes, some far reach of utter imbalance. He was a ludicrously unbalanced creature. How could nature smile upon him? Nature, surely, wanted him dead, too.

“Sir?” said a bleached, smiling stewardess. “Your seat belt.”

He blinked at her, confused. “What about it?”

“You need to wear it. We’re landing. It’s for your safety.” Though he wanted to laugh, he buckled it just for her. Then he reached into his jacket pocket, took out a small white envelope full of pills he’d bought in Düsseldorf, and popped two Dexedrine. To live or die was one issue; for the moment, he just wanted to stay alert.

Suspiciously, the Swiss businesswoman watched him put away his drugs.

The pretty, round- faced brunette behind the scratched bulletproof window watched him approach. He imagined he knew what she noticed—how big his hands were, for example. Piano- player hands. The Dexedrine was making them tremble, just slightly, and if she noticed it she might wonder if he was unconsciously playing a sonata. He handed over a mangled American passport that had crossed more borders than many diplomats. A touring pianist, she might think. A little pale, damp from the long flight he’d just finished. Bloodshot eyes. Aviatophobia—fear of flying—was probably her suspicion. He managed a smile, which helped wash away her expression of bureaucratic boredom. She really was very pretty, and he wanted her to know, by his expression, that her face was a nice Slovenian welcome. The passport gave her his particulars: five foot eleven. Born June 1970—thirty- one years old. Piano player? No—American passports don’t list occupations. She peered up at him and spoke in her unsure accent: “Mr. Charles Alexander?”

He caught himself looking around again, paranoid, and gave another smile. “That’s right.”

“You are here for the business or the tourism?”

“I’m a tourist.”

She held the open passport under a black light, then raised a stamp over one of the few blank pages. “How long will you be in Slovenia?”

Mr. Charles Alexander’s green eyes settled pleasantly on her. “Four days.”

“For vacation? You should spend at least a week. There is many things to see.”

His smile flashed again, and he rocked his head. “Well, maybe you’re right. I’ll see how it goes.”

Satisfied, the clerk pressed the stamp onto the page and handed it back. “Enjoy Slovenia.”

He passed through the luggage area, where other passengers from the Amsterdam- Ljubljana flight leaned on empty carts around the still- barren carousel. None seemed to notice him, so he tried to stop looking like a paranoid drug mule. It was his stomach, he knew, and that initial Dexedrine rush. Two white customs desks sat empty of officials, and he continued through a pair of mirrored doors that opened automatically for him. A crowd of expectant faces sank when they realized he didn’t belong to them. He loosened his tie.

The last time Charles Alexander had been in Slovenia, years ago, he’d been called something else, a name just as false as the one he used now. Back then, the country was still exhilarated by the 1991 ten- day war that had freed it from the Yugoslav Federation. Nestled against Austria, Slovenia had always been the odd man out in that patchwork nation, more German than Balkan. The rest of Yugoslavia accused Slovenes—not without reason—of snobbery.

Excerpted from The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer. Copyright © 2009 by Olen Steinhauer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Minotaur, a division of Macmillan, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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