Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer

Espionage loves its jargon and its arcane techniques. The CIA is called The Company, by those who know. Spies practice tradecraft, which encompasses everything from how to designate, mark, and carry out a drop off to how properly to evade surveillance to how to communicate in code so that correct information is being passed and--in the best of all possible worlds--disinformation is being passed at the same time.

And a tourist is an agent who has apparently flamed out and left the Company, or died, or gone rogue, but is actually working under deep cover in the darkest division of the most clandestine corner of the organization. Tourists are the guys who carry out assassinations, among other dark ops, for the Company.

Milo Weaver is a former tourist--now, he will discover when he gets back into the game, a legend--who has for half a decade been back in the States, working at a desk job for the Company. He's got a wife, a daughter, and a brownstone in Brooklyn. He's as content as he's ever been, so it's inevitable that he will be sucked back into the game. With a vengeance.

The action takes Weaver across the United States and Europe: from Paris to Venice to Blackdale, Tennessee. There are flashbacks to the Cold War era, and Milo Weaver, in the end, has a most delicious and surprising secret.

Spy novels, even when they're indifferently written, are good, convoluted, difficult to follow fun. Olen Steinhauer's The Tourist, I'm happy to say, is well-written, deftly plotted, intelligent, and, well, still kind of difficult to follow...but that's part of the game, now, isn't it? If it were easy to follow, then we'd all be spies.

Disclosure: In accordance with new FTC guidelines for bloggers I must let you know that I received a free review copy of this title.  My reviews are just that: reviews.  They are not endorsements, nor am I ever compensated for posting my opinion.  

1 comment:

Steve Anderson said...

Nice take in your review. I found it convoluted too, and I was expecting a lot from this writer as I'd heard of him over the years and could never quite get to him. That said, the writing was well done, and I'd read another.