In the new novel by the well-traveled Steinhauer (An American Spy, 2012, etc.), the death of an American diplomat in Hungary sets wheels spinning across North Africa.
Sophie Kohl hasn’t been the best of wives. But when her husband, Emmett, is shot in a Budapest restaurant, her reaction is swift and visceral. Instead of flying his body home to Boston, she bolts to Cairo, the scene of diplomat Emmett’s last posting. There, she seeks help from her former lover, Stan Bertolli, in unraveling the drama that led to Emmett’s end. Opinion is mixed. Emmett’s colleague and Stan’s boss, Harry Wolcott, thinks the dead agent sold out his country to Zora Balaševic, who has dirt on him from the youth he misspent among disaffected Serbians in Novi Sad. Stan has more faith in the deceased rival for Sophie’s affections. He helps her track down Jibril Aziz, a CIA analyst from Langley who recently appeared in Cairo asking for escort into Libya. The creator of Stumbler, a long-dormant blueprint for the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi, Aziz is convinced that someone has revived his plan at the worst possible moment: just as the Libyans stand poised to rid themselves of the dictator. As the Egyptians cope with their own version of the Arab Spring, more contestants vie for the Betrayal of the Month prize, and the body count climbs. In the end, it’s a question of which will win out: misguided nationalism or plain old greed.
Could easily dispense with a third of the pages in this le Carré wannabe.