Sophie Kohl is living her worst nightmare. Minutes after she confesses to her husband, 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 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, 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 in Cairo in The Cairo Affair, 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.
This book had my full attention from the beginning and it kept increasing. From the turn of the first page until the turn if the last page I was completely and totally immersed. Steinhauer designed a climax worth noticing and since this novel is similar to a maze he masterfully succeeded. An amateur could not have pulled the apex off but Steinhauer is not an amateur.
Cairo is vividly described, you take in the environment and its senses. The characters seem ‘real’ and immediately you find yourself involved in their presence. The spies are human and not overly theatrical or dramatized, rather every day people doing what they do. With their ‘real’ portrayal it causes the reader to be empathetic, you have an understanding of the reasons they did what they did. If they were portrayed in another fashion I am certain having this unspoken understanding and empathy would not be possible.
Reading The Cairo Affair was similar to finding your way out of an intricate maze, just when you think you have grasped the maze you find a blockage – every bit a spy thriller with numerous suspenseful moments. No question this would make for an incredible movie, no small undertaking but incredible in the very least but the book will always reign supreme – far too many details to translate to film without taking away from its beauty.
Steinhauer crafted an outstanding piece of work in both writing and narrative with multiple heart stopping moments, character driven and every ounce a thriller.