The Washington Post
The Touristby Olen Steinhauer, Grover Gardner
Milo Weaver used to be a "tourist" for the CIA - an undercover agent with no home, no identity - but he's since retired from the field to become a middle-level manager at the CIA's New York headquarters. He's acquired a wife, a daughter, and a brownstone in Brooklyn, and he's tried to leave his old life of secrets and lies behind. However, when the arrest of a… See more details below
Milo Weaver used to be a "tourist" for the CIA - an undercover agent with no home, no identity - but he's since retired from the field to become a middle-level manager at the CIA's New York headquarters. He's acquired a wife, a daughter, and a brownstone in Brooklyn, and he's tried to leave his old life of secrets and lies behind. However, when the arrest of a long-sought-after assassin sets off an investigation into one of Milo's oldest colleagues and exposes new layers of intrigue in his old cases, he has no choice but to go back undercover and find out who's holding the strings once and for all.
The Washington Post
The New York Times
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.
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.
Smart… He excels when the focus is on Weaver an intriguing, damaged man yearning to break free of his dark profession.
Olen Steinhauer evokes the work of spy novel greats like John le Carré with his new novel, The Tourist…As in the best of le Carre'swork, the clandestine world of The Tourist is as much about bureaucrats as it is about black bag ops. Steinhauer has a solid grasp of the espionage world (either that or a fertile imagination) that enlivens his enjoyable story.
Justifiably praised for his novels set in Cold War-era Eastern Europe.The Tourist is contemporary but equally intelligent, evocative, and nuanced.
Elaborately engineered… He immerses his reader in the same kind of uncertainty that Milo faces at every turn… As for Mr. Steinhauer, the two-time Edgar Award nominee who can be legitimately mentioned alongside of Johnle Carré, he displays a high degree of what Mr. le Carré's characters like to call tradecraft. If he's as smart as The Tourist makes him sound, he'll bring back Milo Weaver for a curtain call.
The best spy novel I've ever read that wasn't written by John le Carré.
The kind of principled hero we long to believe still exists in fiction, if not in life.
As rich and intriguing as the best of le Carré, Deighton or Graham Greene . . . The Tourist should be savored.
Tour de force . . . First-rate popular fiction . . . The Tourist is serious entertainment that raises interesting questions.
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Read an Excerpt
By Olen Steinhauer
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Olen Steinhauer
All rights reserved.
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. "Portoroz, 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?"CHAPTER 2
She was a careful driver these days, which he supposed was an inevitable result of her two Austrian years. Had she been stationed in Italy, or even here in Slovenia, she would've ignored her turn signals and those pesky speed limit notices.
To ease the tension, he brought up old London friends from when they both worked out of that embassy as vaguely titled "attachés." He'd left in a hurry, and all Angela knew was that his new job, with some undisclosed Company department, required a steady change of names, and that he once again worked under their old boss, Tom Grainger. The rest of London station believed what they'd been told — that he had been fired. She said, "I fly up for parties now and then. They always invite me. But they're sad, you know? All diplomatic people. There's something intensely pitiful about them."
"Really?" he said, though he knew what she meant.
"Like they're living in their own little compound, surrounded by barbed wire. They pretend they're keeping everyone out, when in fact they're locked in."
It was a nice way to put it, and it made him think of Tom Grainger's delusions of empire — Roman outposts in hostile lands.
Once they hit the A1 heading southwest, Angela got back to business. "Tom fill you in on everything?"
"Not much. Can I get one of those smokes?"
"Not in the car."
"Tell me what you know, and I'll fill in the rest."
Thick forests passed them, pines flickering by as he outlined his brief conversation with Grainger. "He says your Frank Dawdle was sent down here to deliver a briefcase full of money. He didn't say how much."
She nodded at the road.
Charles continued: "He was last seen at the Hotel Metropol in Portoroz by Slovenian intelligence. In his room. Then he disappeared." He waited for her to fill the numerous blank spots in that story line. All she did was drive in her steady, safe way. "Want to tell me more? Like, who the money was for?"
Angela tilted her head from side to side, but instead of answering she turned on the radio. It was preset to a station she'd found during her long drive from Vienna. Slovenian pop. Terrible stuff.
"And maybe you can tell me why we had to learn his last whereabouts from the SOVA, and not from our own people."
As if he'd said nothing, she cranked the volume, and boy-band harmonies filled the car. Finally, she started to speak, and Charles had to lean close, over the stick shift, to hear.
"I'm not sure who the orders started with, but they reached us through New York. Tom's office. He chose Frank for obvious reasons. Old-timer with a spotless record. No signs of ambition. No drinking problems, nothing to be compromised. He was someone they could trust with three million. More importantly, he's familiar here. If the Slovenes saw him floating around the resort, there'd be no suspicions. He vacations in Portoroz every summer, speaks fluent Slovene." She grunted a half-laugh. "He even stopped to chat with them. Did Tom tell you that? The day he arrived, he saw a SOVA agent in a gift shop and bought him a little toy sailboat. Frank's like that."
"I like his style."
Angela's look suggested he was being inappropriately ironic. "It was supposed to be simple as pie. Frank takes the money down to the harbor on Saturday — two days ago — and does a straight phrase-code pass-off. Just hands over the briefcase. In return, he gets an address. He goes to a pay phone, calls me in Vienna, and reads off the address. Then he drives back home."
The song ended, and a young DJ shouted in Slovenian about the hot-hot-hot band he'd just played as he mixed in the intro to the next tune, a sugar-sweet ballad.
"Why wasn't someone backing him up?"
"Someone was," she said, spying the rearview. "Leo Bernard. You met him in Munich, remember? Couple of years ago."
Charles remembered a hulk of a man from Pennsylvania. In Munich, Leo had been their tough-guy backup during an operation with the German BND against an Egyptian heroin racket. They'd never had to put Leo's fighting skills to the test, but it had given Charles a measure of comfort knowing the big man was available. "Yeah. Leo was funny."
"Well, he's dead," said Angela, again glancing into the rearview. "In his hotel room, a floor above Frank's. Nine millimeter." She swallowed. "From his own gun, we think, though we can't find the weapon itself."
"Anyone hear it?"
She shook her head. "Leo had a suppressor."
Charles leaned back into his seat, involuntarily checking the side mirror. He lowered the volume as a woman tried with limited success to carry a high E-note. Then he cut it off. Angela was being cagey about the central facts of this case — the why of all that money — but that could wait. Right now he wanted to visualize the events. "When did they arrive at the coast?"
"Friday afternoon. The seventh."
"Frank, no. He was too well known for that. Leo used an old one, Benjamin Schneider, Austrian."
"Next day, Saturday, was the trade. Which part of the docks?"
"I've got it written down."
"Frank disappears ...?"
"Last seen at 4:00 A.M. Saturday morning. He was up until then drinking with Bogdan Krizan, the local SOVA head. They're old friends. Then, around two in the afternoon, the hotel cleaning staff found Leo's body."
"What about the dock? Anyone see what happened at seven?"
Again, she glanced into the rearview. "We were too late. The Slovenes weren't going to ask us why Frank was buying them toys. And we didn't know about Leo's body until after seven. His papers were good enough to confuse the Austrian embassy for over eight hours."
Excerpted from The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer. Copyright © 2009 Olen Steinhauer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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