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review 2018-02-25 05:45
Is Steinhauer trying to do Dostoyevsky? Dunno, but it kept me turning the pages
The Nearest Exit - Olen Steinhauer

What a mess of a plot, with a mess of a bunch of people, running around in a mess of an agency with the messiest morals imaginable. It's so much like the US I know and love that it's almost like real life.


Dostoevsky asked a lot about lying to oneself, peace and justice in The Brothers Karamazov. Here Olen Steinhauer visits a lot of those same topics in a rather pulpy espionage novel. He even centers his second installation in Milo Weaver's story with a similar question to the one Ivan asks Alyosha, "Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature - [a child.]"


That's the big question of this book. We learn very early on that Milo has been asked to murder a young girl, and we spend the novel trying to figure out why - was the reason "just" or not, is it ever "just" to kill (especially a child) and what exactly is justice, who is the arbiter? Writers much better than Steinhauer for all time have tried to answer these questions. We're not getting the answer in a spy novel.


It's been a while since I read The Brothers, but Milo is at least as tortured at times as any Russian character. He just deals with it in very different ways. There are many other similarities, and that's kind of hilarious at the same time it's true. For instance, can Milo be with his wife and child while he's still a Tourist? Dostoyevsky said, “One can fall in love and still hate.” He also said, “Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”


And that's Milo's central struggle. He's constantly lying to the woman and child he professes to love and lying most of all to himself. He swears for two books now that he's leaving the Dept of Tourism, but he noticeably has not left, despite all the consequences he and his loved ones have faced because of his work. This one reaches high, but doesn't always meet its mark.


Honestly, I have no idea how to review this second book. There's something absurd about the lofty ideals of this man, Milo Weaver, who keeps doing the same thing expecting different results, but I still like him despite myself. The only thing I know is that there is a third, and I will read it. I'm hoping that means Milo will be around for it, though honestly, I am not entirely sure because it seems Olen Steinhauer is more than happy to kill off, or seemingly kill off, just about anyone. That's what makes me turn the pages.


It's not a masterpiece. This is a book to be read on a rainy sunday snuggled under a blanket to give my brain a break, which is why those idealistic Dostoyevskian questions don't all belong in one volume of this type. Nonetheless it held my interest, and that's really all I expected.

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review 2018-02-22 05:50
The Tourist: A Decent Espionage Book, finally
The Tourist - Olen Steinhauer

Olen Steinhauer raised my estimation of him tremendously in this book from the last one I read, All the Old Knives. This was an interesting and page-turning adventure with plot twists I didn't see and characters I cared about much more. Milo Weaver is a guy I will happily follow through his series. We have a secret (open secret in government, secret to the rest of us) agency with the CIA called the Office of Tourism, a guy who just wants a "normal" life, though it's pretty clear he's not going to last long in that endeavor. Family friends and a smart aleck daughter. All in all a very happy, speedy and rather thrilling even, at times, espionage tale. Yay!

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review 2018-01-29 03:04
Not recommended
All the Old Knives - Olen Steinhauer

Turns out Olen Steinhauer was born in Baltimore. Booksellers and libraries love to show off our hometown writers, or even people who just happened to be born here. (Everyone leaves if they can, but Steinhauer didn't even stay long enough to grow up here.)


This one was slightly disappointing because I am rather desperate to find someone to fill the modern role of all the great Cold War espionage writers I love. It mostly takes place in the present at a table over dinner, with a bunch of flashbacks, and it's ABC espionage. I really wish it had been "cerebral." I'm still trying to figure out why that word is used in the blurb. Maybe they meant "we hear things people think?"


We get interior and exterior and we see the difference from two characters who were once lovers and spies (independently. They weren't lovers because they were spies.) It started slow, heated up for a minute, then got distant again. The worst part is that it felt distant at the point when I should have been affected. I didn't hate it. I just didn't care enough.


I'll try one more of his books before giving up completely.

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review 2017-08-11 00:00
The Tourist
The Tourist - Olen Steinhauer Here goes a flowing story line, refreshing coincidences and outright weird heroes...
Q: He lifted the desk phone and typed 49, and after a doorman’s military opening gambit—“Yes, sir”—he cut in: “Name.”
“Steven Norris, sir.”
“Listen carefully, Steven Norris. Are you listening?”
“Uh, yes. Sir.”
“If you ever send a goddamned Homelander upstairs again without clearing it with me first, you’re out of here. You’ll be guarding the front gate of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad wearing a George Bush T-shirt instead of body armor. Got it?” (c)
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review 2016-02-05 20:04
All the Old Knives - Olen Steinhauer

All the old knives  by Olan Steinhauer
Sounded like a good book. Starts out with Henry Colham and he's leaving CA, plane is delayed.
Celia Fabrough he plans to visit before he heads back to Vienna. She's now married to Drew and 2 boys.
She left the spy career behind.  Story goes back in time and we find out how they met and their lives then working for the CIA til the terrorists hijack the plane and kill a stewardess.
Was their identity comprised? That's what he needs to find out, by asking her more questions of what she knows/remembers.
What I like about this book is that it's an audiobook and each of the characters get their own chapters with right voices: female voice for her, male voice for him.
Fast paced action and not predictable.
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device).

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