This author is really great at portraying the East European life of the Communist days. He gives so much background that you can really feel those days. Combine a good story and you have police procedure genre at it's best.
Did Brano Sev, an agent of an unnamed Eastern European country, kill Bertrand Richter in Vienna in the 1960s? Or was he set up by his superiors at the Ministry of State Security, the headquarters of his service located at the address that gives Edgar-finalist Steinhauer's uneven third novel its title? And why does he have a slip of paper with the name Dijana Frankovic on it when he wakes up, bewildered, in a Vienna park? Even Sev doesn't know--amnesia!--but the consequences are all too clear: he's demoted to a dead-end factory job, "fitting electrical wires into gauges so that the machines of socialist agriculture would never fail." (The author ably captures socialist rhetoric.) Sev gets a chance at redemption, and the opportunity to find out what really happened, when the ministry sends him home, to the provincial town of Bóbrka, to investigate a possible double agent, Jan Soroka. While the details of life behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War ring true, some readers may find the flawed Sev too undeveloped a character to care about his fate. The real story involves Sev's father, who left the country under suspicion of collaboration after WWII, but the plot's Byzantine complexity, more confusing than intriguing, clouds that classic father-son drama. Agent, Matt Williams at the Gernert Company. Author tour. (June 13)
*Starred Review* Brano Sev is Steinhauer's most intriguing hero yet, and that's saying something. The disappointments and betrayals of 20 years have seasoned the earnest young apparatchik first seen menacing the background in The Bridge of Sighs (2002), the debut of this loose-knit Eastern Block series. In that tale, Sev was a poignant mix of hope and despair, idealism and ironic apathy that landed him squarely in Graham Greeneland. Now it's 1966, and after being framed by a fellow spy, Sev has a chance to redeem himself with the party by tracking a person of interest who has appeared in his childhood village. When a badly slashed corpse turns up, it seems as though we're headed toward a mystery, but Steinhauer has many, many more surprises in store, and we are led with Sev into brka, a perplexing maze that takes him to Vienna, where he is left out in the cold until an old flame flares up. With its shifting perceptions, pervasive paranoia, and truly unpredictable plot, this will be savored by readers of well-crafted espionage ranging from Alan Furst to John le Carre. David Wright
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