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The Cairo Affair: A Novel

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  2,677 ratings  ·  384 reviews
Sophie Kohl is living her worst nightmare. Minutes after she confesses to her husband, a mid-level diplomat at the American embassy in Hungary, that she had an affair while they were in Cairo, he is shot in the head and killed.

Stan Bertolli, a Cairo-based CIA agent, has fielded his share of midnight calls. But his heart skips a beat when he hears the voice of the only woma
Audio CD, 10 pages
Published March 18th 2014 by Macmillan Audio
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I love great genre fiction. Steinhauer represents some of the very best of modern espionage literature. While he hasn't yet reached the level of le Carré, he is now firmly on the top shelf of literary spy fiction with peers like le Carré, Littell, Furst, etc.

The Cairo Affair is an important bookmark in espionage fiction. In this 21st Century, post 9-11world, Steinhauer (along with le Carré) is the goto fiction writer to understand the nuances of private-contract espionage, post-Soviet global re
Jennifer Boyce

I honestly didn't like this book. While it seemed like a book I would enjoy, a thriller based on serious world issues, I found myself constantly confused and bored with the story.

The story begins with a bang (literally) as Sophie, while sitting in a restaurant, confesses to her husband about the affair she had while in Cairo. The husband is then shot while still in the restaurant almost directly after the admission. Now- the tumultuous writing suited this
Spy novels have dramatically changed from the old formula when the chief antagonist was almost always a ruthless Soviet KGB agent and the battleground somewhere in the hidden lairs and trenches of Eastern Europe.
The Cairo Affair is reminiscent of the Cold War espionage novels by John le Carré and Len Deighton, instead establishing a more modern setting of Northern Africa and the political gamesmanship of the Muslim world. This is a complex story, involving realistic characters and many, many que
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is more of a 3.5 star rating. This book was selected for the upcoming season of my only in-person book club, and I probably would not have read it otherwise.

It was a quick read that I knocked out in a few hours, and there are a few things that made it enjoyable - rather than use James Bond era or post-WWII era as the setting for a novel of espionage, Steinhauer uses a combination of the former Yugoslavia in the early 90s and Budapest/Cairo immediately following the "Arab Spring." The diffe
I was disappointed with “Cairo Affair” though it had lots of great parts it also lagged in many sections. The topic and setting is something that appeals to me…undercover intelligence in exotic settings. Most of the action as you can tell from the title takes place in Cairo but those events have a profound impact on the politics mostly of the Baltic area and have their roots in the past both the Baltic’s and in the past of a young married couple. Emmett and Sophie are in love and have been for t ...more
'Nothing is ever what it seems' -- hold onto that mantra; it will serve you well as a reminder while traveling through the pages of this globe spinning political conspiracy that will have you feeling like you are navigating in the modern political panorama through a house of distorted mirrors. A smart, complex story of espionage that relies not on the thriller aspects, but rather on the knowledge of what we don't know, the intricacies of a tangled web of spy vs. spy.

The novel spans 20 tumultuous
Mal Warwick
“In only three days, five politically active Libyan exiles vanished from the face of the earth” in different countries around the globe. Thus opens The Cairo Affair, a complex, multilayered spy novel featuring a young American couple, Sophie and Emmett Kohl — a mid-ranked diplomat and his wife of twenty years, a housewife, recently relocated from Cairo to Budapest. Somehow, the Kohls are connected to the disappearance of those five Libyans. Therein lies the tale.

With consummate skill, Olen Stein
I have been a fan of espionage fiction for a long time, and Olen Steinhauer is one of my favorite authors in this genre.

The Cairo Affair starts during the activities of the Arab Spring, in February 2011. Sophie Kohl's husband Emmett is currently working at the American embassy in Hungary, but his previous assignment was in Cairo. Both of them have friends still in Cairo, and when Emmett is killed, Sophie seeks the reasons for his death there. Along her journey to discover the truth, we visit th

Sophie Kohl, wife of Emmett, a diplomat at the American Embassy in Budapest, is horrified to see her husband shot in front of her. She flees to Cairo to her ex-lover, Stan Bertolli, a CIA agent and becomes embroiled in a world of espionage and double dealing.
Jibril Aziz, a US analyst in possession of a list of names of Libyans willing to start an uprising, has met with Emmett shortly before his death. He is desperate the list does not fall into the wrong hands. There is a
This book, my first by this author, recalled the early ruminative spy pieces by John LeCarre, which drew me in with in-depth character studies. Following the trajectory of the main character, Sophie, is worth the price of admission, so to speak. Egyptian, Hungarian, Serb and American spooks play a game of national secrets and double agents that should engage any spy fan, all of this presented with a backdrop of the Arab spring taking place in northern Africa, the fall of Tunisian and Egyptian de ...more
With current global affairs as its backdrop, the book delves into the intrigues of the world of spies and intelligence and moves from Cairo to Budapest and back to Cairo with flashbacks to 20 years ago when Sophie Kohl and her then boyfriend Emmett traveled in Europe during the breakup of Yugoslavia. Now married to Emmett who is a diplomat in the U.S. embassy stationed in Budapest, Sophie is confronted by Emmett about her clandestine affair when they were based in Cairo. Minutes later Emmett is ...more

Sophie Kohl is living her worst nightmare. Minutes after she confesses to her husband, a mid-level diplomat at the American embassy in Hungary, that she had an affair while they were in Cairo, he is shot in the head and killed.

Stan Bertolli, a Cairo-based CIA agent, has fielded his share of midnight calls. But his heart skips a beat when he hears the voice of the only woman he ever truly loved, calling to ask why her husband has been assassinated.

Omar Halawi has worked in Egypti
As a teen and into my twenties, I devoured novels of the cold war, espionage, world tensions...but as the cold war receded, so did the fascination with the underworld spies, both by readers and writers. The Cairo Affair drops you right in the middle of modern day tensions; post-Arab Spring Egypt, conflict in the Balkans, America's role in world power, as well as the motivations, dreams, and flaws of all the key characters in this modern day espionage novel.
As a reader of more non-fiction than fiction, I found this book enjoyable by virtue of it's links to current events in the Middle East. Steinhauer uses the Arab Spring in North Africa and the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya as entry points for the novel. Some Mid-East spy novels push the limits of what is believable, with super-hero CIA agents and never ending dangerous situations. But I found "The Cairo Affair" to be less a tension filled action story and more about several of the individuals, on ...more
The Cairo Affair is a story about betrayal, a woman's desire to live an "authentic" life, and choosing to ignore and minimize facts in order to live and survive. I have not read much in terms of "espionage fiction," but I think this was a good start.

Sofie Kohl is the wife of a US diplomat who witnesses the murder of her husband only minutes after he confronts her about her affair. Early on we learn Sophie has many secrets, some of which her husband was a part of, and she believes his murder migh
Eh. It was ok. I could see the twists coming from a mile away, and the book had it's own structure to blame for that. The story is oft-repeated from the perspective of several different characters. While this is interesting in that the motives change even if the basic facts don't, but it's extremely repetitive. I think the explanation of the MacGuffin, Stumbler, and its relevance to the plot at hand must have been explained at least ten times to various characters. This is boring, and it only se ...more
When a New York Times bestselling author Olen Steinhauer comes out with a new book, it’s bound to get a lot of attention. This highly touted author of critically acclaimed Milo Weaver trilogy, is known to bring an intriguing plotline packed with political and personal betrayals. It’s an espionage novel at its best. Who can forget the first in the series: The Tourist, now a major motion picture starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.

“Not since John le Carré has a writer so vividly evoked the mu
John Brumbaugh
I have read Steinhauer's The Tourist and really liked it. For some reason, I never got around to the sequel, but after reading this one I think I will get back to that. This book reminded me just how good Steinhauer is at pacing a story and weaving in a lot of complex elements. My favorite part of this book was how the different book sections ended up telling me this story from the perspective of each key player. The most interesting element in this was you would have a reveal from one character ...more
Robert Intriago
An interesting book as it deals in part with the Arab Spring. This stand alone book is okay but not as good as his Milo Weaver series. The story seem disjointed and the flashbacks to Yugoslavia informative but I did not think relevant to the story. Mr. Steinhauer provides a lot of information as to the situation in Egypt and Libya during their revolt against the despot ruling at that time. He also gives you some information as to the reason for separation of the old Republic of Yugoslavia in 199 ...more
Ellen Keim
Some of this was confusing (although I expected that as it is a spy novel) and a lot of it repetitive, with episodes being shown from different points of view, but for the most part I enjoyed this book and plan to try another book by this author. I'm probably not the best person to judge this book since I'm not that familiar with spy novels (I've only read two John le Carré novels and that was quite a while ago), but I can see the appeal of this genre. I probably enjoyed this book partly because ...more
Inês Beato
Esperava um pouco mais d' "O caso do Cairo" depois do que li no livro anterior, que servia, supostamente, de prólogo a esta obra.
A história é interessante, mas arrisco-me a dizer que Olen Steinhauer me pareceu uma imitação barata de Daniel Silva e, sendo eu grande admiradora deste, achei "O caso do Cairo" um pouco banal e esquecível.

Outro ponto foram as personagens. O John que conheci do livro anterior está longe de ser o protagonista deste e tenho de admitir que, apesar de ter simpatizado com
Julian Brash
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sophie Kohl, the wife of an American diplomat in Hungary is traumatized when her husband is killed sitting across from her in a Budapest restaurant. Especially since, he had just told her that he knew about her illicit affair with a fellow diplomat while stationed in Cairo.

For the sake of her own conscience, she is determined to discover her husband’s killer and the reason behind his premature death. Following the trail back to Egypt and further beyond to their honeymoon in eastern Europe, twen
Emmett and Sophie Kohl have been together 20 years, since they met at Harvard, and have had a life filled with travel and new experiences. He is a diplomat with the State Department, and she's his plus one for embassy events. On the surface, they are a perfect couple. Then Emmett is shot in front of his wife in a restaurant in Budapest. The local authorities as well as the Americans look for a reason, but Sophie believes she knows. She cannot reveal why.

The book is told from a variety of POVs. W
I am a huge Steinhauer fan so no surprise I liked his latest espionage thriller. What I really like about this one was the way he weaved in the different and changing perspectives of the various characters. It really highlighted how what we know and when we know it changes what we think and how we interact with people. As is drive home toward the end, we like to think we operate with machine logic (cold, calculating, factual, etc.) but we really operate with human logic (emotional, contingent, u ...more
I liked this book a lot. It's a sort of goulash with elements from Budapest, Serbia, Northeastern Libya, and especially Cairo. The whole pot (I almost wrote "plot") is heavily seasoned by Langley, Va. Of course the whole stew is a puzzle, but the pieces ultimately fit together well.

This plot is reminiscent of LeCarre's best. The characters are not quite so good, but still promising. The envionments are intriguing. The action is a little more cerebral than physical. Steinhauer's on the way to bec
A Tale of Betrayal

The Cairo Affair is a fictionalized behind the scenes look at the machinations of the recent Arab Spring; the story told through a wide and varied set of characters, many of them members of the international “intelligence” community – read spies. As in the author’s previous books the sense/description of place – including sights, sounds and smells - is excellent. Less so is character development – many of the secondary and tertiary players here blending together, (begging the
Adam Shields
Short Review: I have read Steinhauer's previous Tourist Trilogy and really enjoyed them. I think Steinhauer is one of the better spy novelists writing today. He is more than John le Carré variety than the Ian Fleming variety. This book is concerned with a plan to overthrow Gaddafi (it is set in 2011 before the change of government). An American CIA analyst prepared the plan, but it was rejected 3 years earlier. But now someone seems to be putting the plan into effect. Sophie Kohl, the wife of an ...more
Zeb Kantrowitz
This is the eighth book that I have read by Olen Steinhauer, and I must say that his writing and characterization gets better with every book. Even the title can be taken three or four different ways. The book has a slightly different format than the standard mystery/thriller, as it’s told from the perspective of various characters with different slants on what they see.

The anchor of the story is a CIA proposal called ‘Stumbler’ that was a scenarios as to how the US could help some Libyan dissi
Was notified this morning (Nov 21) that I have won the First Reads giveaway and am now awaiting its arrival . Thanks First Reads Giveaway! My copy arrived today (Jan 9) thanks to Cassie's extra help at the publisher's. Let the reading now begin....

This thriller opens innocuously with a CIA researcher collecting pieces of data and assembling them to form what he feels is directly related to unrest in Libya and a plan called Stumbler which supposedly was scrapped. After only a few pages, the scene
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How did Emmett find out about Sophie's affair? 2 22 May 08, 2014 12:31PM  
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Olen Steinhauer grew up in Virginia, and has since lived in Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Texas, California, Massachusetts, and New York. Outside the US, he's lived in Croatia (when it was called Yugoslavia), the Czech Republic and Italy. He also spent a year in Romania on a Fulbright grant, an experience that helped inspire his first five books. He now lives in Hungary with his wife and dau ...more
More about Olen Steinhauer...
The Tourist (The Tourist, #1) The Nearest Exit (The Tourist, #2) An American Spy (The Tourist, #3) All the Old Knives The Bridge of Sighs

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“God in His infinite wisdom Did not make me very wise— So when my actions are stupid They hardly take God by surprise” 4 likes
“Later, once they had returned to Boston and gained some perspective, she would see that this was part and parcel of extremist thought the world over: the heaping on of selective trivia that only a computer could fact-check in real time, the raw accumulation of unverifiable anecdote that could create a new reality.” 0 likes
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