all-the-old-knives-olen-steinhauerSix 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.

Readers familiar with the genre will not be surprised to learn that this evening is not destined to end happily, with the ex-lovers wishing each other well and amicably going their separate ways. Mr. Steinhauer specializes in tough showdowns. And the more innocently they begin, the more devastatingly they end.

Read the full review on NY Times

The characters are beautifully written, the setting fully realized. By the time we get to the final third of the book, the story shifts into high gear and it becomes impossible to even think of stopping. I never give away endings, but I will tell you this: I was one shocked reader at the end and that made me want to throw my arms around the author’s neck and shout “Huzzah! You got me!”

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It’s an understatement to say that nothing is as it seems, but even readers well-versed in espionage fiction will be pleasantly surprised by Steinhauer’s plot twists and double backs.

Read the full review on Kirkus

Many thriller writers covet the adrenaline rush and nonstop action of the latest summer blockbuster. With his new book, “All the Old Knives,” Olen Steinhauer evokes films of an earlier era.

Read the full review on Richmond

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