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All the Old Knives

Cover of All the Old Knives

All the Old Knives

A Novel
Borrow Borrow

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.

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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  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 5, 2015
    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.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 25, 2015
    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.

  • AudioFile Magazine Narrators Ari Fliakos and Juliana Francis Kelly serve up a meaty meal of sexual tension and regret as they portray former lovers and CIA agents in Steinhauer's latest contemporary espionage. The story plays out over an innocent dinner during which the ex-partners explore the details of a tragic incident involving a hostage crisis. Fliakos uses a dry, world-weary delivery while Kelly adopts a snide tone that reflects her new life outside the world of espionage. The poignant regressions delivered with aplomb by Fliakos and Kelly allow the story to unfold from the points of view of the characters and reflect their intelligence and expertise, as well as the stress of protecting American interests in the necessary job of spycraft. R.O. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine
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All the Old Knives
All the Old Knives
A Novel
Olen Steinhauer
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