A review of The Bridge of Sighs, by Olen Steinhauer
@@@@ (4 out of 5)
It has been three years since the Second World War ended, leaving his country in still in ruins and under the rule of a one-party Communist government headed by Comrade Mihai. The despised Germans and their sympathizers have been driven out or executed, but their legacy taints daily life at all levels of society. Just 22 and fresh out of the police academy, Emil Brod reports for duty to the homicide department in The Capital, only to be thrown, unaided, into investigating the murder of one of the country’s leading citizens. Treated to hostility by his fellow officers, Brod stumbles headlong into the murky circumstances surrounding the murder. Soon, he finds himself in the arms of the murdered man’s wife, who helps point him to a connection with a celebrated war hero rumored to be a candidate for the Politburo and a possible successor to Comrade Mihai. The Bridge of Sighs tells the tale of Brod’s persistence on this case in the face of official disapproval and several attempts on his life.
The Bridge of Sighs is a deeply satisfying novel that joins complex characters with a credible story in a well-researched setting. The book was nominated for five literary awards, and it’s not difficult to see why.
Published in 2003, with the action taking place in 1948, The Bridge of Sighs was the first in Olen Steinhauer‘s five-novel series set in a fictional Central European country most closely resembling Slovakia.
The Bridge of Sighs was followed in successive years by The Confession (set in 1956), 36 Yalta Boulevard (1966), Liberation Movements (1968 & 1975), and Victory Square (1989). The series thus spans the duration of Communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe.
Immediately after finishing his Central European saga, Steinhauer wrote an espionage trilogy featuring Milo Weaver in 2009-12: The Tourist, The Nearest Exit, and An American Spy.
Olen Steinhauer is a young man, and one worthy to watch.