Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Tourist & France Gall

France Gall, a central image in Olen Steinhauer's great new spy-thriller, The Tourist.

Strangely ignored in the UK to date, The Tourist has been in the NYT best seller lists recently, and it is easy to understand why. Perhaps it is too sophisticated for our British times.

I've just put The Tourist down, on a second read (I read an early manuscript version last year) and I feel sure we have the start of something big. Imagine if The International had a plot, or if Three Days of the Condor had a global canvas, rather than merely a New York-ish backdrop, and you'd be getting close to the richness of the text. Family is never far away, even when identity is vague, obtuse or simply impossible to understand.

Olen leaves us hanging in a triangle of paternity but in the apparent certainty that anti-hero Milo Weaver (played by Clooney, perhaps, in the film: he's optioned it, anyway) will be back. Blurbs evoke Le Carré's world, but if this is true it is to the early Smiley Le Carré, not the tone-deaf romantic of recent times, that we find in Olen's terse, dialogue-driven, tale of murders-within-murders; networks within networks; and Homeland v. the CIA.


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