Summary: A whole spy thriller reveal over dinner.
Olen Steinhauer is often compared, favorably, to John le Carré. It has been a few years since I picked up one of Steinhauer’s books, but this was on sale as an audiobook, it was relatively short and I needed a change of pace.
According to one of the reviews I read prior to purchasing it, Steinhauer was told by someone that modern spy novels are never quite as good as the old ones. And so he put that scene at the start of the book and then for nearly the whole book the action is reveal, in flashbacks or in current reality, while the two protagonists are having dinner. It was not until things were about to be revealed that I guessed correctly what was going on.
For me, the thrill of the spy novel is not the gadgets or fights, but the intellect. I tend toward le Carré, not Fleming. The negative of the intellectual le Carré style is that there is a reliance on the cynicism of the game. There is loyalty and an understanding of right and wrong. But there is also frustration, blackmail, power, the end justifying the means and the ends getting lost along the way. I really do like the slow reveal style of Steinhauer and le Carré, but the cynicism is draining. So I probably won’t pick up another one again for a while. All the Old Knives was enough to remind me of what I love and hate about the modern spy novel. It was short enough to not make me hate it and well written enough to keep me engaged all along the journey.