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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 March 2014
I have been a fan of Olen Steinhauer since hist first book. Having now finished his newest book, The Cairo Affair, I have very mixed feelings about it. My overall feeling is that it is just an 'okay' read.

On the plus side, typical of a Steinhauer book, is that his characterizations in The Cairo Affair are top-notch, with all of his characters (of which there are many) being fully developed and come across as very "real" people. What they are not, however, are likable; which, as a result, made me not care very much about what happens to them. Also, typical of a Steinhauer book, is a very descriptive sense of place, making me feel that I was right there in whatever location the characters are in.

For me, these plusses were offset by the following weaknesses, which resulted in my opinion that The Cairo Affair is okay enough to finish but not good enough to recommend that you rush out to read.

One weakness is that the plot, which almost from the onset, starts off with a bang (literally), never creates enough of a sense of excitement or suspense to make The Cairo Affair much of a page-turner. As a matter of fact, I, at times, found myself being bored with the book; to the point that on a couple of occasions I thought about giving up on it. A second weakness is that Steinhauer tells the story from the perspectives of a number of different characters who are all involved with each other, which tended to make too much of the story seem repetitive. In addition, Steinhauer has the story jump around too much between the present time and about twenty years or so ago, which, for me, tended to make the slow pace of the book even slower and, at times, a bit confusing.

I hope this review is helpful in deciding if The Cairo Affair is a book you'll want to read.

I received an advance ebook of The Cairo Affair from NetGalley and the publisher in return for an honest, unbiased review.
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on 1 October 2014
Excellent, Olen delivers again. Fiendish plotting, great characters, intricate but credible story. It feels especially current with its setting and time period. It opens with a bang and it doesn't let go. Highly recommended.
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on 19 September 2014
The first book I have read by this author and I was duly impressed. Set in 2011 at the time of the so-called 'Arab Spring' the author makes great use of 'flashbacks' and the narration by the various characters is skilfully done. Having travelled in Serbia and stayed in Novi Sad the descriptions of those places really ring true as do the evil machinations of the various security and counter-espionage forces.

On completion I immediately started reading 'The Tourist' by the same author.
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I normally love a good thriller and whilst I’ve tried Olen’s work before this one felt sub parr as a number of the concepts didn’t ring quite right with a lead character that really didn’t have me wanting to spend time with them. Its an OK book but when you expect something special from a known name, and it just doesn’t deliver then as a reader you feel that you’ve been not only short changed but cheated.

Don’t get me wrong for most readers, if they haven’t read Olen before they will probably enjoy it but for me, sadly this lacked a lot of the skills that have come to the froe for me in previous outings. All round a great disappointment but it was a book I was pleased that I stayed around for the ending purely to discover that it hadn’t improved.
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on 3 November 2014
It's a spy story set against the background of the Arab Spring. Various Libyans disappear - is a secret CIA project under way? An American diplomat is murdered - but why? Is Serbian intelligence up to no good? What about Egyptian intelligence? Is the CIA bumping off its own?

It's very well written and plotted - and all very believable. It takes a bit of concentration, and who would have expected the hero to be a middle-aged man with a bad back?
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on 16 August 2016
the central figure is inescapably someone you admire and care for - his predicaments are ones he is cornered into and many people in their day jobs, they want to get out - but the ruse here is brilliant and just appreciating that is sufficient good fun - brilliant thriller ..
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VINE VOICEon 22 August 2015
This is well up to standard, carrying on Steinhauer's mature and cynical look at the world of intelligence agencies around the globe. The link from the Balkans war of the 1990s to post Arab spring Egypt and Libya is wholly convincing, and the characters varied and wonderfully drawn. Highly recommended.
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on 18 October 2014
This was an enjoyable read - the characters were all well-rounded, the plot engaging and the writing good. My favourite part was the structure - different view points and flashbacks to 1991 bringing the whole story together - which I thought was brilliant.
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on 3 August 2014
There are some good bits here but it all falls apart towards the end. Some suspense is created by realising early on that there's a dark event that happened in Yugoslavia in 1991 that somehow leaves the American couple at the centre of the story beholden to Serbian intelligence. When the event is finally revealed it's about as plausible as frost in Cairo and still less that a chance meeting twenty years later would spark the actions described.

That said, there are some good characterisations such as the idealistic Libyan- American, the likeable deputy head of Egyptian intelligence and the lack of inter-agency co-ordination on the US side comes across plausibly enough. The book does wobble a bit with the highly unlikely actions of the wife of the first murdered American. But I did like the telling of the story from different viewpoints which clarified things and helped with momentum of the book.

The book also has no more sense of place than a recounting of Cairo street names. I know Cairo reasonably well and must say the amount of walking the expats in this book do is extraordinary taking no account of the heat, the dust, the ease and price of taxis. So on each of the numerous occasions they walk I kind of had this memory of every walk I ever took being harried by ubiquitous taxi drivers looking for a fare. Sophie also takes public transport so as to be unnoticed - really? Possibly the best way for a Caucasian woman to draw attention to herself.

I was also left baffled by the role of the John character. His love interests and sideline as a language teacher just seemed like a different story to the one being told in the book. And the epilogue part of the book was weird. I shan't spoiler it but again it had me going really?

In sum, pleasant enough to while away an airport delay - which is just what I've done with it - but, now finished, one to leave behind rather than clutter my shelves with it.
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on 30 December 2014
My first Steinhauer novel and after finishing the novel I immediately downloaded the Tourist.

The Cairo Affair is a well plotted spy thriller that has plenty of twists and turns.
The narrative does jump around so the reader needs to concentrate but it's well worth the investment. It's also an interesting take on the Arab Spring revolutions and fans of Le Carre and
Cummings should enjoy this.
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