OLEN STEINHAUER, the New York Times bestselling author of eight novels, is a two-time Edgar award finalist, a Dashiell Hammett award winner and has been shortlisted for the Anthony, the Macavity, the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and the Barry awards. Raised in Virginia, he lives in San Francisco, California.
AN AMERICAN SPY (CHAPTER 1)
The time Xin Zhu spent trying to be unheard could have added up to an entire life. Hours driving extra laps through a city, watching the rearview; accumulated minutes gazing into street-window reflections and standing in queues for bread or soup he didn’t even want because his stomach was in knots. Sitting behind desks, thinking through cover stories and diversions and wondering how long ago his office was last scoured for bugs. Visits to cemeteries and bars and churches and empty warehouses and parking garages, only to find that his date wasn’t going to show up. Meals lost sitting for hours in dark rooms, in airports and train stations and wet public squares, waiting.
Then today, driving the dull hour and a half from Beijing to Nankai along the G020, ditching his ten-year-old Audi and taking a taxi to the train station in tree-lined Xiqing. Waiting on the platform until the Qingdao train started to roll before heaving his large body and small gray overnight bag onto the last car. Hovering in the doorway as the station passed, watching for latecomers. All this, even though this same train began life in south Beijing, not so far from where his journey began. All this, just to meet someone who, like him, lived and worked in Beijing.
The story, which his assistant could be depended on to proliferate, was that Xin Zhu was on a weekend trip to Shanghai to gain 665 miles of perspective and consider his dwindling options. By the time the masters in Beijing realized—if they realized—that the big, silent man checking into Shanghai’s Pudong Shangri-La was not Xin Zhu, it would be too late.
As the train headed southeast on its five-hour itinerary, he worked his way toward the front. He was a conspicuously fat man, and when he came upon others either he or they had to squeeze into a spare seat to allow space to pass. Newspapers, covered with photos of devastation—Sichuan province, annihilation by earthquake—were folded noisily to let him by. Occasionally, when coming upon young women with children, he offered a smile of sympathy as he raised his bag above his head, and they wedged themselves past each other. Finally, he found a pair of free seats in the front row of a clean, beige-paneled car. Zhu lifted the armrest between them and settled down gratefully before spotting more photos on more newspapers, rubble and weeping.
There was no other subject in the country, which almost made him feel guilty for this excursion. Four days ago, an earthquake had struck Wenchuan, in eastern Sichuan province, powerful enough to be felt more than a thousand miles away in the capital. The nation had mobilized. Nearly a hundred thousand soldiers were deployed, two thousand Health Ministry medical staff, a hundred and fifty aircraft. The confirmed dead totaled twenty thousand, but the published estimate was at least fifty thousand, which was probably low. In the face of that, what did the future of one fat spy matter?
As he waited for his breathing to ebb and the fine layer of sweat over his blunt features to evaporate, the ash-colored outskirts of Xiqing passed. The air was better here, and would only grow cleaner as they neared the coast. He, too, felt cleaner, being out of the capital. He always felt better in the field.
The conductor, a pleasant-looking woman in an immaculate blue uniform, darkened when he said that he wante
With only a handful of CIA-trained assassins—code name: “tourists”—left, Milo Weaver is more than ready to return to his cherished role as a husband and father. But his former CIA boss, Alan Drummond, can’t let the job go. When Alan uses one of Milo’s compromised aliases to travel to London and then disappears, calling all kinds of attention to his actions, Milo has no choice but to go in search of him. Worse still, it’s beginning to look as if Tourism’s enemies are gearing up for a final, fatal blow.
With An American Spy, Olen Steinhauer, one of the best espionage writers in a generation, delivers a searing international thriller that will settle once and for all who is pulling the strings and who is being played.