Olen. 36 Yalta Boulevard. Minotaur: St. Martin's. June 2005.
c.320p. ISBN 0-312-33201-7. $23.95. Fiction.
At the height of the Cold War in 1966,
things have gone badly for Brano Sev, a major in the Ministry
of State Security in an Eastern bloc country. Sent to Vienna
to plug a leak, Sev is accused of sabotaging the mission and
soon finds himself back home working in a factory, lucky to
have avoided prison. Five months later, his former boss, Col.
Laszlo Cerny, shows up with an offer: check out a defector
who has returned to Bóbrka, an isolated village north
of the capital, where Sev himself was born and still has family,
and he may earn reinstatement. Thus begins a quest for the
truth behind a series of baffling events on both sides of the
Iron Curtain. Aware that he is being used but unable to figure
out for what purpose, Sev finds that not only is his fate at
stake but also that of his country. Steinhauer (The Confession) is a master at entangling
a compelling protagonist in a spellbinding web where each broken
thread entraps the character (and the reader) in yet another
mystery. This is an imaginative, brilliantly plotted espionage
thriller, with finely detailed settings and a protagonist of
marvelous complexity. Highly recommended.