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All the Old Knives: A Novel by Olen…
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All the Old Knives: A Novel

by Olen Steinhauer

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They Do Things Differently There: "All the Old Knives" by Olen Steinhauer


“One part of my history is gone. That gaggle of friends has disappeared. This collection of embarrassing memories can no longer be discovered by someone going through my stuff. [ ] It was always about the future. What’s that they say about the past?” That it’s another country?”

As a reader I would say, of course, people are essentially the same, doesn’t matter whether we are talking about the past, the present of the future. But is that really true? I think they did things differently, they just weren't different. Hartley's point in his novel “The Go-Between” was that the response to an affair between a wealthy woman and working man was different, but the feelings were the same, which is why they had the affair in the first place. Along the way, in the honoured spy fiction tradition this quote came to have a quintessential meaning.

You can find the rest of this review on my blog. ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
Great, need to read more Steinhauer ( )
  rlsalvati | Jul 5, 2016 |
'All the Old Knives' may be a departure from Olen Steinhauer's 'typical' novel, but it works. I had read that he was interested in trying the approach he used (an intimate dinner between ex-lover/CIA operatives to solve an old question about loyalty) after witnessing a play or movie based on a similar construct and I think he pulls it off very well.

Steinhauer can really write, is familiar with exotic locales, seems to understand tradecraft, and knows how to build suspense. I really enjoyed the way he used the dinner setting between a couple people who went their separate ways after a screw up with a terrorist group, told from alternating perspectives, to flash back and finally expose what happened and who betrayed our country. It has a solid, unexpected ending that wraps the whole thing up nicely.

I really enjoyed the different technique Olen Steinhauer employed in this novel. It may have been a one-off experiment for him, but I recommend it highly! ( )
1 vote gmmartz | Jun 21, 2016 |
Counter-terrorism and espionage meet My Dinner with André. Well, actually “The Song of Lunch” which Olen Steinhauer saw in a film with Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson. It inspired him to consider whether he could write an espionage novel that happens with a man and woman over the course of a meal. It turns out he can, more or less, and the product of this experiment is All the Old Knives. There are narrative jumps into backstory that are not at the table, but are very much part of the dinner conversation.

All the Old Knives bring two former lovers, Henry Pelham and Celia Favreau, back together over dinner. Celia has left the Agency and Henry is investigating an old incident they were both involved in, a hijacking in Vienna that resulted in the death of more than 120 men, women, and children murdered by a four terrorists. What with one thing and another (not telling) it is clear that someone in their office was in contact with the terrorists. Henry needs to determine if Celia was the traitor and decide her fate. There are no tribunals.

This is a good espionage thriller. As a mystery, it is also a good read, with fair story-telling mixed with lots of misdirection. What do you expect? They’re spies which means they are unreliable narrators, flawed and calculating. What you see is not what you get. I liked Steinhauer’s ambition and the scenes that are in the restaurant, that are part of his conceit are the most powerful. The narrative gets a bit off the mark when we get their backstories. Celia seems off, with a hatred for her boss’s wife that is too stark, too involved, and too judgmental. Her boss’s wife seems a caricature. So does Celia’s husband, Drew. Celia’s hectoring on motherhood is also a bit off, as in protesting too much.

3pawsIf you like espionage or if you like Olen Steinhauer, you should read this. It does not achieve quite what Steinhauer wanted. He has to leave the table from time to time, but it is suspenseful and draws the reader in. I do not find it as effective as The Tourist, for example. Perhaps it is Henry’s broken-down exhaustion or Celia’s smug mama grizzly routine, but I did not care that much about the characters. I found Henry somewhat more real and credible than Celia, but I think they both suffered from being part of an experiment instead of a naturally evolving narrative.

I borrowed All the Old Knives from Multnomah County Library.

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/all-the-old-knives-by-olen-steinhauer/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Apr 17, 2016 |
All the old knives by Olan Steinhauer
Sounded like a good book. Starts out with Henry Colham and he's leaving CA, plane is delayed.
Celia Fabrough he plans to visit before he heads back to Vienna. She's now married to Drew and 2 boys.
She left the spy career behind. Story goes back in time and we find out how they met and their lives then working for the CIA til the terrorists hijack the plane and kill a stewardess.
Was their identity comprised? That's what he needs to find out, by asking her more questions of what she knows/remembers.
What I like about this book is that it's an audiobook and each of the characters get their own chapters with right voices: female voice for her, male voice for him.
Fast paced action and not predictable.
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device). ( )
  jbarr5 | Feb 5, 2016 |
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amazon ca product description :Six years ago in Vienna, terrorists took over a hundred hostages, and the rescue attempt went terribly wrong. The CIA's Vienna station was witness to this tragedy, gathering intel from its sources during those tense hours, assimilating facts from the ground and from an agent on the inside. So when it all went wrong, the question had to be asked: Had their agent been compromised, and how two of the CIA's case officers in Vienna, Henry Pelham and Celia Harrison, were lovers at the time, and on the night of the hostage crisis Celia decided she'd had enough. She left the agency, married and had children, and is now living an ordinary life in the idyllic town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Henry is still a case officer in Vienna, and has traveled to California to see her one more time, to relive the past, maybe, or to put it behind him once and for all.
But neither of them can forget that long-ago question: Had their agent been compromised? If so, how? Each also wonders what role tonight's dinner companion might have played in the way the tragedy unfolded six years ago. All the Old Knives is New York Times bestseller Olen Steinhauer's most intimate, most cerebral, and most shocking novel to date.
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