*Steinhauer, Olen. The Confession. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. March 2004. c. 336p. ISBN 0-312-30328-9. $24.95. Fiction.

In the late 1930s, Eric Ambler published several novels set in Eastern Europe that earned him acclaim as the master of the spy thriller. Though at a much earlier stage in his career, Steinhauer (The Bridge of Sighs) has staked out the same world in the mid-1950s with equal assurance and a greater mastery of character. Under the watchful eye of State Security and the KGB, Ferenc Kolyeszar, homicide inspector in an unnamed Eastern European capital, investigates a series of murders that leads him into the city’s grim underworld. At the same time, he’s forced to confront his own crumbling marriage, writer’s block, and the decay of a system in crisis. This is a gripping and fully realized portrayal of a man whose strengths, flaws, struggle, and ultimate fall are emblematic of the fate of Eastern Europe itself. While skillfully developed, the intricacies of plot, particularly the story behind the diverse crimes, fade to relative insignificance in the light of Ferenc’s heart-rending “confession.” Densely atmospheric and strongly recommended for academic and public libraries.

LJ, 129, no. 1 (January 2004), 166.


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