Six years ago in Vienna, terrorists took over a hundred hostages, and the rescue attempt went terribly wrong. The CIA’s Vienna station was witness to this tragedy, gathering intel from its sources during those tense hours, assimilating facts from the ground and from an agent on the inside. So when it all went wrong, the question had to be asked: Had their agent been compromised, and how?
Two of the CIA’s case officers in Vienna, Henry Pelham and Celia Harrison, were lovers at the time, and on the night of the hostage crisis Celia decided she’d had enough. She left the agency, married and had children, and is now living an ordinary life in the idyllic town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Henry is still a case officer in Vienna, and has traveled to California to see her one more time, to relive the past, maybe, or to put it behind him once and for all.
But neither of them can forget that long-ago question: Had their agent been compromised? If so, how? Each also wonders what role tonight’s dinner companion might have played in the way the tragedy unfolded six years ago.
All the Old Knives is New York Times bestseller Olen Steinhauer’s most intimate, most cerebral, and most shocking novel to date.
A quiet dinner for two in an almost-empty restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., provides the frame for this terrific standalone thriller from Steinhauer (The Cairo Affair). Henry Pelham has arrived from Europe for a meeting with his former lover and CIA colleague, Celia Favreau, now retired and a mother of two, ostensibly to wrap up the "Frankler case." That's the code name for an internal investigation into "the 2006 Vienna Airport disaster," in which a militant Muslim group took a commercial jet hostage and was apparently "aided by a source within the U.S. embassy." What is portrayed as a fact-finding evening unfolds into something much more dramatic. Henry still carries a torch for Celia, but their respective memories, and the interrelationships in the Vienna CIA office where they worked, demonstrate how the personal and the professional are so often mixed. There's great narrative energy in the thrust and counterthrust of the dinner conversation, as well as in the re-creation of the Viennese events; Steinhauer is a very fine writer and an excellent observer of human nature, shrewd about the pleasures and perils of spying. 150,000-copy first printing.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Slow in the middle
Good beginning and good ending.
Excellent, super exciting read. Love the characters and the unexpected and engaging plot line.
Slow, but Picks Up
The novel is not up to the author's standards but if you stay with it the story is good. The practice of using two principals to tell a shocking but simple tale of duplicity is not effective to this reader. But it is a good book, not much more.