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“The best spy novel I’ve ever read that wasn’t written by John le Carré.”
—Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
“The kind of principled hero we long to believe still exists in fiction, if not in life.”
—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
“As rich and intriguing as the best of le Carré, Deighton or Graham Greene . . . The Tourist should be savored.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Tour de force . . . First-rate popular fiction . . . The Tourist is serious entertainment that raises interesting questions.”
—The Washington Post
"Remember John le Carré . . . when he wrote about beaten-down, morally directionless spies? In other words, when he was good? That’s how Olen Steinhauer writes in this tale of a world-weary spook who can’t escape the old game.”
Edgar-finalist Steinhauer takes a break from his crime series set in an unnamed Eastern European country under Communist rule (Liberation Movements, etc.) to deliver an outstanding stand-alone, a contemporary spy thriller. Milo Weaver used to be a "tourist," one of the CIA's special field agents without a home or a name. Six years after leaving that career, Milo has found a certain amount of satisfaction as a husband and a father and with a desk job at the CIA's New York headquarters. The arrest of an international hit man and a meeting with a former colleague yank Milo back into his old role, from which retirement is never really possible. While plenty of breathtaking scenes in the world's most beautiful places bolster the heart-stopping action, the real story is the soul-crushing toil the job inflicts on a person who can't trust anyone, whose life is a lie fueled by paranoia. George Clooney's company has bought the film rights with the actor slated to star and produce. 100,000 first printing; author tour. (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Superbly accomplished at both plotting and characterization, Steinhauer, in a change of pace from his series of Eastern European thrillers (e.g., The Bridge of Sights; Victory Square), offers an emotionally damaged protagonist who is an experienced spy or "tourist" but now a family man and desk-bound agent of the post-9/11, scandal-ridden CIA. When Milo Weaver is called back to fieldwork and assigned to capture an international assassin, it sets off an investigation into one of Milo's colleagues. The story is long and complicated but compelling and hard to put down. As is true of the better spy novels, the theme here is betrayal. Forays into blind alleys, puzzling clues, lapses of judgment, narrow escapes, and ingenious attainment of objectives establish Milo as a skilled operative performing difficult tasks while being systematically deceived by compatriots and adversaries. Accepting the contemporary story as potentially realistic, readers are led into hoping that their country's intelligence-gathering leadership is actually in better hands-and performing for less venal reasons-than the novel suggests. Appropriately, this story includes a full measure of cynicism, very little humor, and a tender conclusion. Highly recommended for all public libraries.
THE TOURIST (CHAPTER 1)
Four hours after his failed suicide attempt, he descended toward Aerodrom Ljubljana. A tone sounded, and above his head the seat belt sign glowed. Beside him, a Swiss businesswoman buckled her belt and gazed out the window at the clear Slovenian sky--all it had taken was one initial rebuff to convince her that the twitching American she'd been seated next to had no interest in conversation.
The American closed his eyes, thinking about the morning's failure in Amsterdam--gunfire, shattering glass and splintered wood, sirens.
If suicide is sin, he thought, then what is it to someone who doesn't believe in sin? What is it then? An abomination of nature? Probably, because the one immutable law of nature is to continue existing. Witness: weeds, cockroaches, ants, and pigeons. All of nature's creatures work to a single, unified purpose: to stay alive. It's the one indisputable theory of everything.
He'd dwelled on suicide so much over the last months, had examined the act from so many angles, that it had lost its punch. The infinitive clause "to commit suicide" was no more tragic than "to eat breakfast" or "to sit," and the desire to snuff himself was often as strong as his desire "to sleep."
Sometimes it was a passive urge--drive recklessly without a seat belt; walk blindly into a busy street--though more frequently these days he was urged to take responsibility for his own death. "The Bigger Voice," his mother would have called it: There's the knife; you know what to do. Open the window and try to fly. At four thirty that morning, while he lay on top of a woman in Amsterdam, pressing her to the floor as her bedroom window exploded from automatic gunfire, the urge had suggested he stand straight and proud and face the hail of bullets like a man.
He'd spent the whole week in Holland, watching over a sixty-year-old U.S.-supported politician whose comments on immigration had put a contract on her head. The hired assassin, a killer who in certain circles was known only as "the Tiger," had that morning made a third attempt on her life. Had he succeeded, he would have derailed that day's Dutch House of Representatives vote on her conservative immigration bill.
How the continued existence of one politician--in this case, a woman who had made a career of catering to the whims of frightened farmers and bitter racists--played into the hands of his own country was unknown to him. "Keeping an empire," Grainger liked to tell him, "is ten times more difficult than gaining one."
Rationales, in his trade, didn't matter. Action was its own reason. But, covered in glass shards, the woman under him screaming over the crackling sound, like a deep fryer, of the window frame splintering, he'd thought, What am I doing here? He even placed a hand flat on the wood-chip-covered carpet and began to push himself up again, to face this assassin head-on. Then, in the midst of all that noise, he heard the happy music of his cell phone. He removed his hand from the floor, saw that it was Grainger calling, and shouted into it, "What?"
"Riverrun, past Eve," Tom Grainger said.
Learned Grainger had created go-codes out of the first lines of novels. His own Joycean code told him he was needed someplace new. But nothing was new anymore. The unrelenting roll call of cities and hotel rooms and suspicious faces that had constituted his life for too many years was stupefying in its tedium. Would it never stop?
So he hung up on his boss, told the screaming woman to stay where she was, and climbed to his feet...but didn't die. The bullets had ceased, replaced by the whining sirens of Amsterdam's finest.
"Slovenia," Grainger told him later, as he drove the politician safely to the Tweede Kamer. "Portorož, on the coast. We've got a vanished suitcase of taxpayer money and a missing station chief. Frank Dawdle."
"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.
Still inside the airport, he spotted Angela Yates just outside the doors to the busy arrivals curb. Above business slacks, she wore a blue Viennese blazer, arms crossed over her breasts as she smoked and stared through the gray morning light at the field of parked cars in front of the airport. He didn't approach her. Instead, he found a bathroom and checked himself in the mirror. The paleness and sweat had nothing to do with aviatophobia. He ripped off his tie, splashed water on his cheeks, wiped at the pink edges of his eyes and blinked, but still looked the same.
"Sorry to get you up," he said once he'd gotten outside.
Angela jerked, a look of terror passing through her lavender eyes. Then she grinned. She looked tired, but she would be. She'd driven four hours to meet his flight, which meant she'd had to leave Vienna by 5:00 A.M. She tossed the unfinished smoke, a Davidoff, then punched his shoulder and hugged him. The smell of tobacco was comforting. She held him at arm's length. "You haven't been eating."
"And you look like hell."
He shrugged as she yawned into the back of her hand.
"You going to make it?" he asked.
"No sleep last night."
Angela got rid of the smile. "Still gulping amphetamines?"
"Only for emergencies," he lied, because he'd taken that last dose for no other reason than he'd wanted it, and now, as the tremors shook through his bloodstream, he had an urge to empty the rest down his throat. "Want one?"
They crossed an access road choked with morning taxis and buses heading into town, then followed concrete steps down to the parking lot. She whispered, "Is it Charles these days?"
"Almost two years now."
"Well, it's a stupid name. Too aristocratic. I refuse to use it."
"I keep asking for a new one. A month ago I showed up in Nice, and some Russian had already heard about Charles Alexander."
"Nearly killed me, that Russian."
She smiled as if he'd been joking, but he hadn't been. Then his snapping synapses worried he was sharing too much. Angela knew nothing about his job; she wasn't supposed to.
"Tell me about Dawdle. How long have you worked with him?"
"Three years." She took out her key ring and pressed a little black button until she spotted, three rows away, a gray Peugeot winking at them. "Frank's my boss, but we keep it casual. Just a small Company presence at the embassy." She paused. "He was sweet on me for a while. Can you imagine? Couldn't see what was right in front of him."
She spoke with a tinge of hysteria that made him fear she would cry. He pushed anyway. "What do you think? Could he have done it?"
Angela popped the Peugeot's trunk. "Absolutely not. Frank Dawdle wasn't dishonest. Bit of a coward, maybe. A bad dresser. But never dishonest. He didn't take the money."
Charles threw in his bag. "You're using the past tense, Angela."
"I'm just afraid."
Angela knitted her brows, irritated. "That he's dead. What do you think?"
THE TOURIST. Copyright © 2009 by Olen Steinhauer.
Posted May 15, 2009
The Tourist starts slowly but caught my interest. The plot is convoluted and if this were a movie you'd probably say it was about 1/2 hour too long. It winds to a good finish. I thought it was a good, but not great read.
10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 24, 2009
I Also Recommend:
Deceit is thick in the air in this modern spy novel. Shifting shapes, names, loyalties are as loosely moored as ever in the spy industry. While China's interest in Sudan's oil is mentioned, interpersonal human drama is the real center of this absorbing 6th novel from expatriate Olen Steinhauer. The clash of jurisdictions between the CIA and Homeland Security in the USA adds a touch of verisimilitude. Steinhauer does a very good job creating characters one cares about. He did the right thing by modelling his work on the great spy novelists of old.
9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 19, 2010
Book 1 in the trilogy staring Milo Weaver
This seemingly realistic thriller is a first rate fiction , a tale of the nasty and deceitful world of spies and assassins.
Milo Weaver aka Charles Alexander is one of the CIA's highly skilled assassins, in the trade they are known as "Tourists". When deployed to various corners of the world, their missions are to be executed without question.
The story opens in 2001 with Milo at a low point in his life. Being a "Tourist" for several years has taken its toll..... his only escape at this point is amphetamines and they are leaving him in a suicidal state. A new mission in Venice to stop the hit man known as "The Tiger" gives him a whole new look at life......
The story flashes forward to 2007. Now a married man with a child, away from active duty and bored at his desk job Milo finds himself longing for the excitement and the adrenalin rush of his old job....Once a spook always a spook.... Milo is reinvigorated when he is summoned to the side of the "Tiger" for a death bed conversation.... The man's confessions send Milo off once again on a chilling path into the world of international conspiracies.
This novel is a modern twist of the old days of espionage, a compelling and intricate account of betrayal, manipulation, loyalty and risk. Its central figure is a complicated man with many faults and flaws, but when faced with extraordinary situations he excels. Throughout the novel you will find plenty of breathtaking scenes and heart stopping action. I enjoyed piecing together the various parts of this very entertaining puzzle and would not hesitate recommending it to anyone.
6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 20, 2010
The Tourist in this case is a CIA agent who travels as a spy for his country. When Milo Weaver tried to leave his old life of secrets and spying, he is dragged back in to try to figure out who is pulling the strings and who are the good/bad guys. Good intrigue, plot engineering and layers to the storyline.
Grabbed me and I couldn't put it down. Now that I have finished it, I am going to catch up on my sleep! Mr. Steinhauer's sixth novel.
The blurb on the first page states that the film rights have been optioned by Warner Bros. for George Clooney. I can see that! And I always like to read the book first and generally they are deeper and more intricate than the movie.
5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 29, 2009
Layers of deceit are uncovered in The Tourist, and the reader is never sure if the truth has just been revealed or not. To say that the story is complex is an understatement, but the reader who sticks it though is rewarded with, well, something to think about. Our government, and security services everywhere, are manned by fallible humans, and they make mistakes and suffer corruption, and, seemingly, love to break the rules. What's to be done with that? The author is of no help there.
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 13, 2009
Six years ago Milo Weaver left his CIA field job as a "tourist" to sit at a desk in the New York City office; he knew it was time as the cold means no hesitation whatsoever. After taking some bullets to the chest in Vienna, Milo knew he would never be the same. He has since married and has become a father living with his loved ones in Brooklyn, which has helped Milo somewhat move past the adrenalin rush of undercover operations.<BR/><BR/>However, once a tourist always a tourist even if the courage has left you scared. His former boss informs him that a sheriff has arrested Samuel Roth for a domestic abuse incident in Blackdale, Tennessee; Samuel is thought to be the ferocious assassin Tiger and the brass want Milo to confirm his identity. However, the simple assignment turns ugly leaving Milo on the run from unknown adversaries and law enforcement who believes he is a cold blooded killer; his biggest fear is that his beloved spouse and daughter are in peril from his enemies.<BR/><BR/>THE TOURIST is fast-paced and filled with non-stop action yet as is the case with Olen Steinhauser¿s saga in an unnamed Eastern Europe twentieth century Communist series, the frustrations and anguish of the hero owns the story line. Mindful of Patrick McGoohan¿s character John Drake in Secret Agent Man, Milo is burned out and suffering from PTSD compounded when friends betray him leaving his family vulnerable. He stoically accepts that Johnny Rivers¿ lyrics is right ¿with every move he makes another chance he takes odds are he won't live to see tomorrow¿.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner
3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 19, 2015
Posted January 30, 2015
Posted November 22, 2013
Posted July 17, 2013
A life as a tourist sounds like a great idea, however for Milo Weaver it was a difficult life. As a professional undercover agent for the CIA, Milo had worked several “assignments,” but none of them focused on a colleague until now. Now with distrust and cover-ups many old cases are coming back under suspicion and Milo is forced back into the life of a tourist.
The Tourist is a fascinating and complicated spy novel. It starts out a bit slow and at times seems tedious, but the plot quickly picks up the pace. Readers will wrapped up in Milo’s mind and looking over their shoulder’s while they read. The plot twists and time jumps will keep readers guessing until the very end. Graphic scenes call for a mature audience, but overall an excellent start to the series.
This review was originally written for My Sister's Books.
This review was originally posted on Ariesgrl Book Reviews.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 23, 2009
The prose and plot were very good but the conclusion was a let down. I usually read a book a week and I feel that there are better written books.
1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 11, 2015
This novel provides a gritty, troubling view of CIA activities. The main character, Milo Weaver, belongs to a black ops group within the
CIA ("The Department of Tourism") which travels the world posing as tourists, with no apparent connection to the CIA. The Tourists, run
by CIA handlers, are used to accomplish almost any dirty trick imaginable that is deemed by the "Company" to somehow enhance the
U.S. position on the world stage or even to enhance the personal interests of the handler. Nearly all of the assignments blur the line
between the ethical and unethical, truth and lies, legal and illegal. Some assignments involved lying to, injuring, and even assassinating fellow
fellow Tourists. Milo Weaver starts out at a low point in his life at the beginning of the book, and ends up at a bit higher point - but not
much. However, the book is well-written, action packed, and easy to read - interesting enough to be a "page-turner." This is one of the
best novels I have read recently. Apparently this is the first in a possible series of Milo Weaver novels, and I am looking forward to
reading Stenhauer's next one, "The Nearest Exit."
Posted March 3, 2015
Posted February 27, 2015
Posted February 22, 2015
Picked this up in the $2.99 and under books and I am now hooked on the author's books. I read this over a few days only because I had appointments and things thst got in the way of reading this right to the end. It was hard to put down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 18, 2015
Posted January 31, 2015
Formatic and " over written" that the sub combos result in too much hero's musing boring and too much grafic detail to entice the jaded with grafic novel captions and possible movie chase scenes bond style. For the devoted spy genre fan onlyWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 19, 2013
Posted January 14, 2013
A very entertaining, absorbing book. A quick read that still allows you to become invested in the main character/story from the outset. Nicely constructed and detailed. The author does not get mired down in overly complex prose or a cumbersome plot. Nevertheless, at the end it's more than just a pithy espionage/action thriller. There was some real thought and devotion to this character and story. I am looking forward to the next installment.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 19, 2012
Not much to trick an old reader of espionage here - not so much the twists as the amount of them that gets in the way of story though. I had an idea of where we were going, and Steinhauer can really write, but the multiplicity of twists and hairpins is somewhat overdone here. He is an excellent writer though, and after about a third into this book, I skimmed the rest and read the last chapter. A bit on the dismal ambiance as well. But that won't stop me from reading another of his novels. It is a rare occurrence to find a person in this era who has a good command of writing, and Steinhauer has that talent.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.