cover image All the Old Knives

All the Old Knives

Olen Steinhauer. Minotaur, $23.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-04542-3

A quiet dinner for two in an almost-empty restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif., provides the frame for this terrific standalone thriller from Steinhauer (The Cairo Affair). Henry Pelham has arrived from Europe for a meeting with his former lover and CIA colleague, Celia Favreau, now retired and a mother of two, ostensibly to wrap up the “Frankler case.” That’s the code name for an internal investigation into “the 2006 Vienna Airport disaster,” in which a militant Muslim group took a commercial jet hostage—and was apparently “aided by a source within the U.S. embassy.” What is portrayed as a fact-finding evening unfolds into something much more dramatic. Henry still carries a torch for Celia, but their respective memories, and the interrelationships in the Vienna CIA office where they worked, demonstrate how the personal and the professional are so often mixed. There’s great narrative energy in the thrust and counterthrust of the dinner conversation, as well as in the re-creation of the Viennese events; Steinhauer is a very fine writer and an excellent observer of human nature, shrewd about the pleasures and perils of spying. 150,000-copy first printing. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, Gernert Company. (Mar.)