Victory Square Hardcover – Aug 21 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
At the start of Edgar-finalist Steinhauer's fine fifth and final entry in his series set in an unnamed Eastern European Communist country (after 2006's Liberation Movements), homicide inspector Emil Brod, now chief of police and three days from retirement, reluctantly investigates the death of Lt. Gen. Yuri Kolev. Though Kolev apparently died of a heart attack, the coroner finds deadly levels of cocaine and heroin in his blood, and a flier in Kolev's car suggests he may have been murdered by members of an underground prodemocracy group. Soon Brod uncovers a wide-ranging plot involving old friends and enemies, all of whom are frantic to take advantage of the situation when their fellow citizens, inspired by the recent fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of governments in neighboring countries, rise up to overthrow their Communist leaders. Employing an intricate story, characters both sympathetic and despicable as well as a remarkable sense of place, Steinhauer subtly illuminates an unforgettable historical moment. (Aug.)
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*Starred Review* In the fifth and final installment of Steinhauer's masterful Eastern European series, the story is once again told by Emil Brod. In The Bridge of Sighs (2003), it was 1948 and he was an inexperienced 22-year-old inspector in the People's Militia; now, in 1989, he's a tired 64 and its chief. Like Brod, his unnamed country has grown old. And over the course of six days, as Brod's final case leads him back to his first, the government will falland the fight for the future may be over before it's begun. If previous books upped the narrative ante, depicting the trials of crime solving in an iron curtain country, this one goes all in: Brod must find out why his own name is on a hit list while dodging riots, road closures, and sniper fire. This is remarkable storytelling, exploring the life cycle of a state through the eyes of political idealists, government informants, and good cops like Brod who just want to solve crimes. Steinhauer also offers a convincing portrait of the psychological shock that accompanies the downfall of even a hated dictator. Totalitarianism may have been intolerable, but as we see today in the countries of the former Soviet bloc, uncertain times can make citizens nostalgic for known evils. Graff, KeirSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
It's the history of a nation through the eyes of its police and spies.
Victory Square is the fifth in this brilliant series set in Eastern Europe just after the Second World War...It marks the end to Olen Steinhauer's grim but fascinating police procedurals set in an unnamed Soviet-bloc nation very much like Romania.
As the Soviet Union falls apart, and the rest of Eastern Europe with it, homicide detective Emil Brod is just focused on his upcoming retirement. As his last case progresses, though, he and his coworkers are forced to navigate the politics of the new revolution. Brod in particular finds out that a new government won't stop the past from haunting the entire country. This is a juicy maze of a story, with interesting characters, and gives a thought-provoking look at not only Soviet-bloc Communism, but also the Wild West democracy that replaced it.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
My only quibble is that the point of view seems to shift from time to time without warning; sometimes in the middle of a paragraph. It's a little strange to switch from 1st person to 3rd and back again so abruptly. I don't know if this was always intentional, or just a lack of thorough editing.
In any case, I found this to be a thoroughly compelling conclusion to a masterful, unique series. Bravo!!!
When I was in Prague and West Berlin in 1968, what struck me most, was to 'darkness and drabness' on the other side of the curtain. You could look into East Berlin and see buildings that still had bullet holes in them and how the streets were covered with a grey dust. The people all had a look in their eyes that was a mixture of fear and hunger. East Berlin looked like a post-apocalyptic city, but the apocalypse was communism. In Prague the people told me they listened to the BBC and watched American and British TV shows that were broadcast in West Germany. They couldn't believe the way people in the West lived. They were especially amazed when they watched Western documentaries that cited the plight of the poor in the West. Even the poor seemed to have cars, food, housing, running water and heat. Now granted that urban housing was run down, but to those in the East, the 'poor' lived pretty well, compared to the average mid-level communist bureaucrat.
Steinhauer has done a magnificent job in documenting the life behind the Iron Curtain in its' day to day drabness and that's what makes this series of five books so important. Those of the new Post-Cold War generation, find the whole situation we lived through for forty years to be unbelievable. When I talk to my daughter's college friends, they are baffled by the stories I tell them of having been in Spain under Franco and Yugoslavia under Tito. They think of totalitarianism as nazis and fascists or some African despot, they find it incredible the lengths that the East Germans went to, to win medals at the Olympics and that one in five people worked for the Stasi (the East German secret police). When I read to them from Solzhnitsyn, they say they feel like I'm reading from an alternate universe.
This is the real importance of Steinhauer's five books, they make the implausible real and readable.
The books move slowly, deliberately, but elegantly, capturing the setting, the characters, the language, the atmosphere and sustaining these throughout the whole of the series. It has been fascinating to see and feel how Steinhauer creates, builds, and maintains tension despite the slow pace.
Overall, I highly recommend these novels (along with his more recent, "The Tourist"). Stay with them, savor them, enjoy them. Bravo, Steinhauer.