September 11, 2012 by Reader's Connection
I love Milo Brewer, in part because he’s the opposite of me. I tend to skate along on the surface of things, whereas Milo goes deep. Early in Olen Steinhauer’s novel The Tourist, Milo is standing on a dock in Slovenia, thinking about the case he’s working. He decides to jump into the water, while a fellow agent looks on in disbelief (“You’re not.”), and down in the dirty water he finds a corpse. Would I have jumped in?
I also like the fact that the reader is always finding stuff out about Milo and his past, just as Milo is figuring out how to survive in the world of espionage.
It’s a wonderful spy story. Milo used to be a Tourist–a kind of CIA agent who has no home base, who wanders the globe as needed, often doing dirty work. After some unpleasantness in Venice, he was pulled from “the Department of Tourism” and given a sort of home. Around that same time, he acquired a wife and daughter, who mean the world to him.
Sad to tell (but luckily for the reader), Milo is yanked back into the world of Tourists. The reasons for this are complex, but the story moves like an express train, and it’s loaded with the kind of paranoia that you can’t call paranoia because the enemies are everywhere.
All Tourists know the importance of awareness. When you enter a room or a park, you chart the escapes immediately. You take in the potential weapons around you–a chair, ballpoint pen, letter opener, or even the loose, low-hanging branch on the tree behind Milo’s bench. At the same time, you consider the faces. Are they aware of you? Or are they feigning a forced ignorance that is the hallmark of other Tourists? Because Tourists are seldom proactive; the best ones bring you to them.
There’s some debate on the Web as to whether there will ever be a movie version of The Tourist, with George Clooney as Milo.