The Cairo Affair Review
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Unabridged Audiobook: 10 CDs (12.5 hours)
Read by Edoardo Ballerini

For compulsive readers like me, audiobooks are a staple of any road trip—whether it’s cross-town or cross-country. But if you hit the road with a copy of Olen Steinhauer’s layered spy thriller, The Cairo Affair, in your car’s CD player, you might find yourself missing your exits and taking wrong turns.

The Cairo Affair begins at a restaurant in Budapest, where Sophie Kohl is confronted by her husband, Emmett, a diplomat at the American embassy, about an affair that she’d thought she’d left in the past. And after being forced to confess, she’s then forced to watch as Emmett is shot and killed in front of her.

Instead of quietly returning home to Boston for Emmett’s funeral, Sophie escapes her handlers and boards a flight to Cairo, determined to find some answers. But she soon finds herself caught up in the secrets and lies of the spy game.

The Cairo Affair isn’t the kind of laid-back, easy-going audiobook that you can play in the background and still keep up with the story. As is often the case with spy thrillers, it’s intricate and complex, with a large ensemble cast of players. You’ll find that there’s a lot going on here, and you’ll have to keep track of characters in multiple countries, along with their various enemies and allies.

In addition to murder and affairs, there are also cover-ups and double agents, intelligence reports and long-buried secrets—all offered through multiple perspectives. And, as if that weren’t already enough to make most readers’ heads spin, the story often jumps back and forth chronologically, from Sophie’s investigation of her husband’s murder back to the series of events that proved to be a major turning point in Sophie’s life—and her relationship with Emmett.

Despite its layers and complexities, though—and perhaps in part because of them—The Cairo Affair is a mesmerizing novel. Nothing here is ever quite as it seems, and as some roads lead to dead ends, others lead to unexpected connections. And the constantly twisting, shifting story is sure to keep you on your toes from start to finish.

If you’re heading out on a road trip through the endless cornfields of middle America, you might still be able to keep up with the intricacies of The Cairo Affair in audio format. But I recommend picking up a copy of the book instead, so you can read it at home, in a quiet room—preferably with a notebook handy. It’s a fascinating book—but one that requires extra concentration.

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