Review of “The Nearest Exit” by Olen Steinhauer

Note: This review is by my husband Jim.

This is the second book in a post-9/11 spy/thriller series that features Milo Weaver, a CIA operative who formerly served as a “tourist,” or “on-call” assassin for the agency. Milo was competent at serving as a licensed killer, but he tired of the dangerous and lethal work and wanted to settle down, so at the end of the first book, he transferred to a desk job.

nearest exit big

In The Nearest Exit, Milo decides to go back to “tourist” work, but first is tasked with proving his worth by going to Berlin, killing a certain 15-year-old girl, and disposing of the body. Milo doesn’t have the stomach for this particular challenge, so he enlists the aid of his father, a former KGB operative who now works for the United Nations. He wants his father to help him stage a phony murder and hide the girl. In spite of Milo’s efforts to save her, however, the girl is found murdered, and German intelligence quickly identifies Milo and subjects him to a brutal interrogation. Milo is exonerated, but he now gets enmeshed in the search for a suspected “mole” in his own organization.

As in most good espionage novels, things are not as they appear, and Milo finds himself in a complex situation in which he doesn’t know whom to trust. Americans, Germans, Hungarians, Chinese, and (through his father) even the United Nations have operatives involved in seemingly interlocking conspiracies. Milo has to maneuver his way through a lethal and deadly game in which he doesn’t even know who is on his side, and who is against him.

Evaluation: With the exception of one or two sadistic killers, most of Steinhauer’s characters are multidimensional and human, if not humane. Milo Weaver is very resourceful and competent, but he is not an invincible superhero like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, so you can’t be sure that the author might not just kill him off. This second book is as good as the first in the series, with lots of action and suspense. There is, however, a bit of a stretch in plausibility, and some caricatured villains.

Note: This book won the 2010 Dashiell Hammett Prize for literary excellence in the field of crime writing.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, a member of Macmillan Publishers, 2010

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7 Responses

  1. This totally sounds like something I would like.

  2. I think I might like this one too.

  3. I only read book 1, The Tourist, and liked it. But obviously not well enough to read any of the others. A 3.5/5 (in my rating system, probably a 3/4) seems about right.

  4. I’ve not read this author before but reading the review reminded me that I read, a long, long time ago, Nelson DeMille and loved him to pieces. Has Jim read DeMille before?

  5. Espionage, not my thing but an engaging cover!

  6. Thank you for this honest and balanced review. This sounds like something I might enjoy.

  7. I admit that I saw the words “post 9/11 spy/thriller” and my eyes glazed over. LOL

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