The Nearest Exit Review
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Unabridged Audiobook: 10 CDs (12 hours)
Read by David Pittu

Because of his job within the CIA’s top-secret Department of Tourism, Milo Weaver has spent time in jail and lost some of his closest friends. Now, he’s on the verge of losing his wife and daughter, too. But no matter how desperately he wants to escape the dangerous life of a spy, he’s unable to walk away. Instead, his marriage crumbling, Milo returns to the field, traveling virtually unseen from country to country to complete each new morally-questionable job.

Milo no longer trusts his handlers—but they obviously don’t trust him, either. And he can only assume that they’re testing him when they send him to Germany to kill a 15-year-old girl. Instead, he kidnaps her and tries to keep her safe. But his failure to do so sends him on a mission of his own—one that leads him to information that could bring down the entire department.

The Nearest Exit is a complex novel—part spy thriller, part family drama—centered on a conflicted character. Milo Weaver is like an older, wiser, more world-weary Jason Bourne. He’s a sharp spy who can quickly assess any situation and flawlessly accomplish any objective—but he’s just not sure that he cares anymore.

At one point, Milo was the best Tourist in the field. Now, he’s tired. He misses his wife and his daughter, and he just can’t understand the point of it all anymore. He’s begun to question his actions—and his orders—and that’s a dangerous position for any spy to be in.

Those escalating moral conflicts make Milo a fascinating character—a man who’s spent his life in those grey areas. In fact, he’s spent so much of his life lying that he doesn’t really know how to begin telling the truth—not even to his wife. And he doesn’t feel that he can trust anyone else any more than they can trust him.

Still, while the personal/family drama definitely makes The Nearest Exit an unusual spy thriller, it often feels out of place. It’s certainly interesting to imagine a spy talking to a marriage counselor—trying to figure out how to be both a spy and a husband—but those scenes tend to bring the novel’s typically frantic pace to a halt.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read Steinhauer’s previous novel, The Tourist (no relation to the Johnny Depp / Angelina Jolie thriller), as I haven’t, you’ll often find yourself feeling lost—especially if you’re listening to the audiobook during quick trips around town. There’s a lot going on here—and a lot of background story that you will have missed—so I definitely recommend checking out the earlier novel before starting in on the sequel. And, since the characters and their twisting stories deserve a little more attention than most audiobook listeners can give them, I also recommend picking up a copy of the book instead of trying to catch it all while listening to the CDs.

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