There is nothing romantic, nothing glamorous about Steinhauer’s Tourist. This burnt (-out) spy, reactivated for service in a black-ops department, addicted to amphetamines, a troubled soul, has a conscience and doubts about his job. He is unfit for duty. Steinhauer has created an interesting, mostly credible character. Though far from a perfect hero, he has a tendency to survive. Though, not with style.
Steinhauer has not only created a convincing protagonist, his story plot is convincing, too. The story moves quickly, changes pace, there are twists – that I did not anticipate. And, in the end, it all makes sense without me feeling duped.
The weakness of Nearest Exit is the same as in the first Tourist novel. Only the protagonist is fully developed. All other characters remain rather flat. All but one that is. A German mid-level BND analyst also gets sufficient space to be fleshed out in slightly more detail.
The bottom line is: one convincing protagonist, sufficient context provided by additional (one-dimensional) figures, plenty of scenery hopping to add an international flair, a villain who is not worse than the “good guys” and a healthy dose of critique on the (existing?) system of international relations (espionage and black-ops) in a violent post cold war, post 9⁄11 world.