The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer

This a fast-moving thriller with an intricate plot about espionage, the FBI and political games as played out in the 90’s among foreign diplomats for the governments of Libya, Egypt, and the USA. The story is centered around Sophia Kohl the wife of Emmett Kohl, a mid-level diplomat at the American embassy in Hungary. Her husband is shot dead by an unknown gunman right after she confesses to him about having an affair. The story then follows as Sophia goes awol with a determination to find out who killed her husband and why. Her unauthorized and secretive quest set in motion an inquisition that threatens to expose years of deceit, lies, murders and cover ups.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Cairo Affair. This book starts off at a breakneck speed, and builds up intensity as the story progresses. It is a complicated and layered plot which makes it even more exciting!

This is one of those books you can’t put down because of the eye-opening discoveries that you make as you get deeper into the story. There are themes of evil schemes, betrayals, rivalries, backstabbing and deceptions all interwoven in this intricate plot.

Set in North Africa, from Hungary to Libya, Yugoslavia to Egypt, this story offers great insights into new places, people and cultures. I especially love stories that take you through foreign lands where you can learn a thing or two – this book does just that.
Pick up this book – It’s well worth your time!
Similar books – The Hidden Man by Charles Cumming, A Cold War by Amelia Levene, and The English Girl by Daniel Silva –

About The Author

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…Read more from Amazon

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Death of a Nightingale

Author – Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis
Publication Date – November 5, 2013
Number of Pages – 368 pages
Genre – Mystery
Geographical Setting – Europe

Death of a Nightingale was one of many free pre publication books I received during the recent ALA conference here in Chicago.  It is a Nordic crime fiction from best-selling authors of The Boy in the Suitcase.  I had never heard about the authors so I was not sure what to expect but I went ahead and read it. I have to say, I loved it! If you are familiar with Scandinavian crime fiction novels, then you have a pretty good idea of the background of this novel.

This is another novel I’ve read recently that takes you back and forth in time. The plot runs across cities in Europe stretching from – 1934 Ukraine through present day Denmark. Death of a Nightingale features the Nina Borg series – a red cross nurse dedicated to the cause of immigrants and the poor who cannot afford official legal representations. Nina is at this time frantically protecting an immigrant single mother Natasha and her daughter Katerina even though the police is after Natasha who they suspect to have murdered her husband in the past and recently her Danish fiancé. At the same time, the reader also follows Natasha’s story as she desperately searches for her daughter who Natasha fears might be in enormous danger regardless that her daughter has been placed under police protective custody. It does not help that while Natasha is secretly and desperately looking to find and rescue her daughter, the police is chasing after her as a suspect in the murders. The authors – Kaaberbol and Frills masterfully constructed a heart pounding complex plot that leads the reader to anxiously flip the pages as they try to uncover the shocking mystery.

My Take –

Although this story starts out with a measured pace – which almost caused me to put it down, it picks up intensity as the reader gets to the middle and continues on a break neck speed with ending twists. Death of a Nightingale is a complicated story line where the discovery of two separate bodies has police detectives piecing pieces together and racing against time in other to find the killer. I find this an emotionally charged story which draws the reader in as they watch Natasha missing her daughter terribly is over come by this fear of some evil thing be falling her baby.

The authors did a great job of creating some confusion in the minds of the readers by weaving in the aspect of a rogue detective which plants doubts about who the real killer is. Thus, the reader grapples with some questions as they read along – Why is Natasha afraid to talk about her past life in Ukraine, could that have anything to do with the murders? Natasha might be psychologically unstable, but is she capable of inflicting such substantial wounds and killing both men? And why would she also want to harm her own daughter?

This book is loaded with revelations of heart breaking secrets and deceits as a roller coaster of sad and unfortunate events from the past are brought to light.

I classify Death of a Nightingale as a great book, not only because of the detailed writing, passionate and persuasive voice, but the background elements exhibiting such a strong sense of place. I was particularly fascinated by the insights of eastern European countries as they are vividly portrayed in the novel. The reader gets some perception of the history of these cities as well as some political and cultural differences that exist among them –  which I truly appreciate as one who has never traveled that far.  This novel fed my curiosity about other cultures, that while reading the book I engaged my map app on my iPad which allowed me to follow the story and maintain a real connection with the places and times.

I would recommend this for all crime fiction readers, however readers of Scandinavian crime fiction would especially be excited for this new addition. And – Watch out as this book gets published November 2013!!
(Now I want to read their first novel – The Boy in a Suitcase which has garnered a lot of buzz …)

About the authors –

Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis are the Danish duo behind the Nina Borg series. Friis is a journalist by training, while Kaaberbøl has been a professional writer since the age of 15, with more than 2 million books sold worldwide. Their first collaboration, The Boy in the Suitcase, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, and has been translated into 27 languages ~ Authors’ info from Amazon.com

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Nightwatcher

Author: Wilson, Charles
Pages: 288
Genre: Mystery
Published: 1990
Setting: Mississippi

This novel is about the brutal rape and murder of Judith Salter a nurse at the state hospital for the mentally insane. Featuring – three escaped psychiatric inmates, suspicious police officers and a guilt stricken dad turned “detective”. Brandon Richards, the victim’s dad abandons his life and career in other to help bring justice to Judith’s killing. Is it a coincidence that these three inmates got out the same night of this tragic incidence? Evidence found on the murder scene has detectives suspecting either or all of the escaped inmates – or could there have been someone else? Judith’s ex husband, a person of questionable character becomes a suspect. Also “someone in the police force” could be killer. While grieving his daughter’s death, Richards is determined to leave no stone unturned investigating his daughter’s murder. Meanwhile, an inmate claims he might have witnessed the killing. How believable is an assertion made by a mentally ill patient?

What prompted me to read this book in the first place was the recommendation on the cover of the book given by John Grisham – an author I’m truly fond of. “Splendid! A lean tight compelling story that was over much too fast. I wanted more”. Another person described the book as “dark, scary, and truly menacing”. Regarding the last statement, I don’t find Nightwatcher that terrifying, neither does it read as spooky as the cover picture depicts.

It is rare that you find a complex plot presented in such a simple format. This is a very quick read. The author did not try to stretch the story with unnecessary details and rigmarole like you find in most mystery novels. Richard’s character very systematically obtains valuable tips and information that helps move the story rapidly. The author methodically builds up a compelling tempo while all the time leaving you guessing who could have committed this horrid act. The excitement lies in the process of walking the reader through layers of unveiling lies, deceptions, conspiracies, and cover ups by the people who were close to the victim. Gradually, shocking revelations are made of the victim’s past life which further complicates the plot. At this point, suspicions about who committed this crime becomes an open-ended question.

It is thrilling to watch as the story culminates in a surprise revelation of the murderer. This is a fun mystery/thriller read – great for the weekend. Fast readers could finish this book within a day.

If you’ve read this book, please let me know what you think…

Tell No One

Author: Coben, Harlan
Pages: 384
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2009
Setting: New York City

This is my first introduction to Harlan Coben
books and certainly not going to be the last.
He is best known for his award-winning Myron Bolitar series.
So Tell No One is one of his stand alone novels.

David Beck and his wife are on their yearly vacation for their wedding anniversary at the Beck family beach house. While out swimming under the moonlight, suddenly Beck feels someone hit him on the back of the head with a baseball bat. He is collapsing as he hears his wife screaming for him. When he comes to, he learns of his wife’s kidnap and tragic death.

Eight years later, Beck has become a respectable Physician in New York City where he works with under privileged children. Beck never got over the death of his wife. Closer to his next anniversary, he receives an intriguing email message with a coded phrase known only to him and his wife. His head is spinning – Is someone playing games with him? Could his wife still be alive? Suspense begins to mount…

Determined to find out the truth about what happened eight years ago, Beck starts his own investigations not knowing whom to trust anymore because the message said “Tell No One” and “They Are Watching”. Beck discovers he is up against a powerful and dangerous billionaire, and it doesn’t help him either to learn he’s being investigated by the CIA as the number one suspect in the death of his wife. But David Beck is not holding back. He is determined to unravel this mystery and he will go to any length to uncover the truth about what happened to his wife.

In Tell No One, Coben has masterfully spun a believable layered story with a lot of twists and turns. Towards the end, as the reader is still getting over some unexpected developments, the author throws in an exciting surprise. This mystery story is very suspenseful and thrilling. It will appeal to anyone who loves fast paced, edge on your seat novels.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, now I’m starting a list of similar books I’d like to read. Do you have any suggestions?

Vanished by Robards, Karen
A Prisoner of Birth
by Archer, Jeffery
The Affair by Child, Lee
Smash Cut by Brown, Sandra
Backfire-FBI Thriller by Coulter, Catherine
I’ll Walk Alone by Clark, Mary Higgins
I’ll Look Again by Scottoline, Lisa
Quinn by Johansen, Iris