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