*Steinhauer, 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.

LJ, vol. 130, no. 7 (April 15, 2005).

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