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by Olen Steinhauer
Minotaur Books, March 2015
304 pages
ISBN: 1250045428

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Master storyteller Olen Steinhauer brings to life the now-ended relationship between two old spies, who served together in Vienna when a planeload of passengers were killed by a fundamentalist Islamic group. Henry Pellham, who is tasked with following up on an internal report for the CIA years later, comes to visit his old lover, Celia Harrison, for her side of the story for his report.

But does Henry really want Celia's side? Or has he already made up his mind before he arrives and merely wants to see if there is some remaining spark between the two, even though Celia has left the intelligence community, married, and had children? It's clear that the two friends still have feelings for each other, but there's too much history to overcome.

While most of the storyline's action takes place at a restaurant in Carmel, California, their time together at the American Embassy in Vienna is omnipresent. And, of course, there are the secrets and lies that they tell to each other and themselves. The twists and turns of the story also harken back to Henry's time in Moscow before he arrived in Vienna. As the story flashes back and forth between past and present, it becomes clear that nothing is truly as it seems on the surface.

Once again, Steinhauer has done a brilliant job of captivating his audience of readers, and soon, it appears, he'll have his opportunity with a movie audience as well (the rights to the book have been sold). The book reads quickly, and it will be nearly impossible for most readers to put ALL THE OLD KNIVES down until the last page.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, February 2015

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