Read: The Tourist

Not an ordinary spy novel. Not an unbeatable hero. Not a murder(er) without moral conflict. Olen Steinhauer’s The Tourist is a remarkable addition to a genre that more often than not features unintentional comic scenes due to burlesque adherence to stereotypes.

The Tourist has no super villain. The protagonist is not invincible. Indeed, the protagonist is deeply flawed, aware of his limitations, seriously troubled, fails quite often in his tasks as a professional and a family man, and even is not the best intelligence (wo)men in the novel. This, of course, lends some credibility to this character who first reluctantly yet then with dedication follows the role he was given in a rather messy and convoluted plot. With a plot that offers so many opportunities for drifting off into global conspiracies and describes so many potentials for international conflict it is surprising that most of the novel deals with an internal conflict. Internal to one country, the US, and internal to the protagonist. The Tourist is thus more a character study of an obsolete spy thrown back into action (other characters are however hardly developed beyond their initial introduction) and a critical reflection of the state of the country after 9/11.

The novel stirred my interest. Luckily, it is (only) the first in a trilogy. There is more to read…