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The Bridge of Sighs: A Novel [Paperback]

Olen Steinhauer
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 12 2004 Eastern Europe Thrillers (Book 1)
In this auspicious literary crime debut, an inexperienced homicide detective struggles amid the lawlessness of a post-WWII Eastern European city.

It's August, 1948, three years after the Russians "liberated" this small nation from German Occupation. But the Red Army still patrols the capital's rubble-strewn streets, and the ideals of the Revolution are but memories. Twenty-two-year-old Detective Emil Brod, an eager young man who spent the war working on a fishing boat in Finland, finally gets his chance to serve his country, investigating murder for the People's Militia.

The victim in Emil's first case is a state songwriter, but the evidence seems to point toward a political motive. He would like to investigate further, but even in his naivete, he realizes that the police academy never prepared him for this peculiar post-war environment, in which his colleagues are suspicious or silent, where lawlessness and corruption are the rules of the city, and in which he's still expected to investigate a murder. He is truly on his own in this new, dangerous world.

The Bridge of Sighs launches a unique series of crime novels featuring a dynamic cast of characters in an ever-evolving landscape, the politically volatile terrain of Eastern Europe in the second half of the 20th century.
The Bridge of Sighs is a 2004 Edgar Award Nominee for Best First Novel.

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From Publishers Weekly

Schmidtke's reading of Steinhauer's debut is rich with subtle nuance, but his portrayal of the actual characters' voices, which are rarely graced with anything resembling an Eastern European accent, may strike listeners as off-key. Set in a rubble-strewn, unnamed Eastern European country in 1948, this intrigue focuses on 22-year-old Emil Brod, a rookie homicide detective for the People's Militia who seems to be up against the world. His department thinks he is a spy, and treats him with utter scorn and malevolence. He is not even given a gun, and has to take public transportation for his investigations. However, not unlike an eastern Dirty Harry, Brod defies direct orders and continues his investigation of a murder, which ultimately leads him to one of the country's most powerful men. Schmidtke delivers the flirtatious lines of Brod's widow/love interest with a decidedly non-sexy, octogenarian breathiness, and his voice takes on a strange Sean Connery-like lilt for Brod's reluctant partner. However, the momentum Schmidtke builds through his performance overrides these peculiarities and renders this intrigue worthwhile.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In 1948, in a small, unnamed Eastern European country, homicide detective Emil Brod has been assigned a case that no one wants him to solve. To make matters worse, he's only 22 years old, this is his first case in the People's Militia, and his colleagues think he's a spy. The victim, a state songwriter, appears to have been blackmailing a politicos, a man formerly known as Smerdyakov the Butcher who has connections to the highest levels of the state and a past that includes wartime atrocities for the Nazis and then the Russians. In his attempt to uncover the truth, Brod soon finds himself battling a host of obstacles (including the murder of his best witness). At the same time, he finds himself attracted to the songwriter's wife, who becomes his lover and a possible victim herself. This is an intelligent, finely polished debut, loaded with atmospheric detail that effortlessly re-creates the rubble-strewn streets of the postwar period in an Eastern state "liberated" from German occupation by the Russians. Highly recommended for mystery collections.
Ronnie H. Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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The greeting was in his desk, the center drawer: a piece of fish-stained cardboard with a clumsily drawn stick figure. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard to get into July 12 2014
By Toni Osborne TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
Book 1, in the Emil Brod series

This unique portrayal begins in 1948 and captures the life and crime of a small Eastern Country (Unnamed) after the Russians liberated it from the German Occupation. The people continue to struggle with rebuilding and coming to terms with their destiny. There are suspicious of their liberators and their Communist ideology. We are into a volatile terrain throughout this auspicious crime novel.

I am a huge fan of the Milo Weaver series so it is of no surprise my curiosity brought me to his debut novel written in 2003 which introduced 22 year old Emil Brod as homicide inspector of the People‘s Militia as the protagonist. Emil spent the war working on a fishing boat in Finland and finally gets his chance to serve his country investigating murders. This is his first outing in a series of 5 installments so far.

This not an easy read. The depiction of broken people who survive the Nazi to only find themselves in the clutch of the Russians is a hard story to take and follow. This book has a repressive atmosphere: highlighting corruption, the starvation, the violence, etc. all the while seeing the protagonist (a rookie) trying to find his way through the maze of intrigue, cruelty and ugliness in order to investigate and solve his cases.

I had trouble concentrating and keeping up with this blend of police procedural, political treatise and love story. My mind kept on wandering and I never could grasp the essence of all what was going on. There was something in the style that didn't agree with me, the narrative did not pique my interest and I fast lost interest. The plot was rather weak IMO and I could easily predict the outcome from the get-go. It was a rough read and I am surprise I actually made it to the ending.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By willieb
I really liked The Tourist, so decided to start at the beginning of Olen Steinhauer's work.

I thought the Tourist was hard to get into at first, but this one is harder still, - I was in around page 65 before it got me hooked.

Its a cop/crime story set in and around 1948 at the end of the war, and gets embroiled in the politics and poverty of eastern Europe at the time.

I found it overall a good read, and am encouraged to try the next in the series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Edgar nominee historical mystery Feb. 26 2004
By Larry
In Eastern Europe, 1948, twenty two year old detective Emil Brod is given his first murder case for the People's Militia. A famous patriotic songwriter is killed in his home. As Emil investigates the murder he realizes there may have been a political reason for the killing. While questioning the upper hierarchy of the party, he is suddenly suspected of being a spy. With death being the penalty for a convicted spy, Brod now finds his own life in danger. He can expect no help from his colleagues in the People's Militia. Emil, with so much at stake, cannot abandon his search for the truth.
THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS is a period piece historical novel with a major strength being the descriptions of the locale- the exact location of which is unknown. Characters almost play a supporting role to their surroundings. The author keeps things in proper perspective, however, as the plot moves quickly to its clever ending. With the strong reliance on the almost unbearable oppression of the people, one immediately recalls the historical dramas of J. Robert Janes and LIE IN THE DARK by Dan Fesperman. Very well done.
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4.0 out of 5 stars By the Book Aug. 13 2003
The Bridge of Sighs takes place in a very unique time and place -- post WWII (1948) and in a tiny Eastern block country. It's wonderful how the hero of our story, Emil Brod, is relentlessly nailed to the wall right from the beginning. He starts a new job, everybody hates him, and things at home -- living with his grandparents -- aren't exactly great, either. And it gets worse before it gets better.
In a nutshell, this is a wonderful by-the-book detective story, though the by-the-book-ness is perhaps its weakest point. The story has been told a million times before -- the woman in trouble, the corrupt official, the hero going through the ringer before overcoming the villain. I just wish Steinhauer would have gone slightly off the formula to keep it a bit fresher.
But that's a very minor complaint. This is a superbly novel with identifiable, realistic characters and a plot that just keeps on moving. Steinhauer can flat-out write: look for a tightly constructed chapter near the middle of the book where he intercuts a flashback (Brod's fight with his arch enemy aboard the ship) and present-day action (a hooker trying to get Brod's attention). Artful, beautiful, perfect.
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THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS by Olen Steinhauer is the debut novel of an ambitious series that begins in 1948 and is set in post-World War II Eastern Europe. The name of the country is not specified but it could be called Everyland. Torn apart by both allies and enemies, the names of these small European nations have come and gone from the headlines, yet the people there continue to struggle with rebuilding and coming to terms with their own identity.
Should they be grateful to their Russian "Liberators" who saved them from the terrifying hands of Nazi storm troopers? Or should they be suspicious of their liberators when they see promises being broken, living conditions becoming worse every day and the sickle of Communism cutting a swath through their already meager existence? These citizens of Everyland experienced the Iron Curtain and all the secrets that lay behind it; many are still struggling with the aftermath of their "liberation" fifty years later.
On his first day as a homicide detective, 22 year-old Emil Brod felt misplaced. Freshly starched uniform, highly polished shoes and naiveté just did not fit in with the rumpled and wrinkled regulars sitting around the dingy squad room of the People's Militia. His various attempts to become acquainted with his fellow inspectors got him nothing but pointedly ignored, verbally threatened and literally hit hard below the belt.
Being a police detective is a tough job under the best of circumstances and seldom do they get to work under the best of circumstances. From Dirty Harry and his conflicts with the politically motivated Captain to Andy Sipowitz being dragged kicking and screaming into political correctness, it's definitely a challenging job.
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