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Alyce T. (San Antonio, TX)
The Cairo Affair
This was my first book by Olen Steinhauer. It won't be my last. I read it from cover to cover in 2 days. The twists and turns of the book keep you wondering and turning the pages. One can't help but mentally debate how much of this story could actually happen and just how plausible is it.
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)
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.
Claire M. (Sarasota, FL)
The Cairo Affair
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.
Engrossed in reading the story, towards the end I put the book down and thought about spies and diplomats, moles, double agents, wives of any or all of them and wondered what possesses them. Although I felt the story was plot driven I was pushed to think about what drove the characters, possibly because I didn't understand who Sophie was, and because they seem to me to represent a variety of human motivation for the sins we commit.
John W. (Saint Louis, MO)
Good But Not Great Spy Thriller
I've lived long enough to know that we don't remain static in our beliefs forever, particularly when events and human characters press on our nerves. Most people probably enter the intelligence services in their formative twenties, having an unexamined sense of patriotism and perhaps they are true believers, but the events and people with which the spymasters, spies and the assassins deal have to impact on their sense of who they really are and what they are doing . And for what reason. For Zora, perverse pleasure in controlling another as well as money. For Emmett, a belief in country because he wasn't a spy but an economist thinking he could further the interests of his country. For Sophie, an undeveloped woman who was essentially amoral. But imagine Omar, a drone who finally figures out the whole damn series of betrayals, double agents, and what it was all for who then co-opts the evil assassin in a world that has changed dramatically. Omar is the most interesting character because he has worked for the state under Mubaryk for most of his career and it is only when weird happenings in the Arab Spring put him in play and each time he is onto something he is yanked back by his boss that he ultimately becomes the master of the game. He has a moral center, or does he? Power backstage on the world theatre is a devil's game.
When I started THE CAIRO AFFAIR the pace was so slow I almost stopped reading it. Since I have always been intrigued with Budapest, Cairo and spy thrillers, I continued reading. It gets better, but the pace remains slower than I prefer. The book shifts between the perspectives of several characters (Sophie, Omar, John and Stan) that can be somewhat confusing. It is an enjoyable spy novel with well-written plot twist near the end. Good, but not a great read.
Vicky S. (Torrance, CA)
Mystery in many countries
This book takes place over a handful of countries and times. I enjoyed moving from country to country and the variety of characters' points of view. There were parts where I did not want to put the book down though I struggled a bit to figure out where the next character started as one ended. I would have loved to have a map of the areas discussed to help me picture the movement of the characters. Book clubs would enjoy the different points of view of the characters.
Jan F. (Santa Rosa, CA)
The Cairo Affair
International intrigue done right! Sophie, the main character, is married to a U.S. foreign service officer. You sympathize with her as she flees to Cairo, looking for the truth. But who can she trust in a world where everyone speaks in half-truths and lies. And everyone seems to have at least one secret that needs to be kept. Even the name of the book means more than one thing. The story is told by several narrators, who carry the story forward and provide insights into Sophie and the other characters so you know them very well and understand why they act as they do. They also give you insight into the problem from many different perspectives, but it won't help you solve the mystery until the very end. This book was a great read and I need to find more of Steinhauer's books now.