A Book Spy Review: ‘The Middleman’ by Olen Steinhauer


The middlemanRipped straight from the headlines, Olen Steinhauer holds nothing back with his latest thriller, The Middleman, a timely thriller that follows characters on both sides of a domestic terrorist plot. 

When it comes to peaceful protests versus acts of domestic terrorism, where does one draw the line? That’s one of the fundamental questions asked early on in Steinhauer’s thought-provoking story. In this case, the answer falls somewhere right around stinger missiles — which are obtained by an organization calling themselves the Massive Brigade, landing them on the FBI’s watchlist. 

Branded as a movement and led by Martin Bishop, a social justice warrior who knows how to make headlines, the Massive Brigade rises to prominence after they’re profiled by a major contemporary magazine. Their ability to organize and work as one is the movement’s strength, and that comes especially in handy when the FBI comes after them. In an attempt to evade the authorities, Bishop disappears, along with several hundred of his followers.

As members go to ground, it appears to those on the outside watching in that the FBI’s attempts to crack down on the Massive Brigade have been successful. However, those on the inside know that isn’t true, and Special Agent Rachel Proulx delves deeper, personally investigating the whereabouts of Bishop with help from Kevin Moore, an undercover agent who’s managed to infiltrate the organization. They realize early on that a bigger game is afoot than most realize, but identifying all the players proves to be challenging. 

With each heart-pounding encounter, the FBI continues gaining the upper hand, and, eventually, rumors even start to swirl that the movement has disbanded, though Moore, who provides an unfiltered glimpse at the group’s inner controversy, reports the exact opposite. It becomes clear to Agent Proulx that someone with some serious clout is pulling the strings behind the scenes, and she sets out to unmask the individual. . . whose identity and motives are truly shocking. 

Not only is Steinhauer’s story current, full of themes playing out across the country today, but in a rather unprecedented move, he covers the entire plot from all angles. Readers get to view the conflict through the eyes of an FBI agent, an undercover operative, a convert to the organization, and a writer closely following the story as it unfolds. Each character is expertly developed and provides a raw, unvarnished perspective that makes it challenging, at times, for readers to know who the bad guys really are. 

Olen Steinhauer mixes politics and espionage as well as anyone, and his latest offering is easily some of his finest work to date. The Middleman is smart, well-written, and sure to get readers thinking. . . you’d be hard pressed to find a better standalone thriller hitting bookstores in 2018. 

Book Details

Author: Olen Steinhauer
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250036178
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.0/10



Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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