cover image All the Old Knives

All the Old Knives

Olen Steinhauer, read by Ari Fliakos and Juliana Francis Kelly. Macmillan Audio, unabridged, 5 CDs, 5.5 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-4272-5809-0

Steinhauer’s new standalone thriller focuses on a couple meeting for lunch at a restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif. Henry Pelham and Celia Favreau are former lovers who met as young CIA agents working together in Vienna in 2006, when militant Muslims attacked passengers at that city’s airport. Celia is long retired but Henry is still active, as is his investigation of a report that the terrorists had an information source at the embassy. But has he traveled from Europe to California just to test her memory of dark events, or does he have another motive, like rekindling their long-ago affair? Using flashbacks and smart chitchat, the author offers a tasty mixture of down and dirty spycraft, bittersweet romance, and deception that voice actors Fliakos (handling the Henry chapters) and Kelly (giving voice to Celia’s) serve with flourish. Fliakos’s interpretation of Celia’s speaking voice smoothly fits into his sections, and Kelly easily enacts Henry in her chapters. But in the instances when, for no obvious reason, they suddenly engage in dialogue together, they continue to read the material rather than perform it, with the result that their pacing is off and the conversation sounds forced. Fortunately, these awkward moments are infrequent and fleeting. A St. Martin’s/Minotaur hardcover. (Mar.)