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Victory Square [Hardcover]

Olen Steinhauer
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 21 2007
The revolutionary politics and chaotic history of life inside Olen Steinhauer's fictionalized Eastern European country have made his literary crime series, with its two Edgar Award nominations along with other critical acclaim, one of today's most acclaimed. Finally having reached the tumultuous 1980s, the series comes full circle as one of the earliest cases of the People's Militia reemerges to torment all of the inspectors, including Emil Brod, now the chief, who was the original detective on the case. His arrest of one of the country's revolutionary leaders in the late 1940s resulted in the politician's conviction and imprisonment, but Emil was too young in those days to understand what it meant to go up against someone so powerful--and win. Only now, in 1989, when he is days from retirement and spends more time looking over his shoulder than ahead, does he realize that what he did may get him--and others--killed. 
Told against the backdrop of the crumbling forty-year-old government--with the leaders who were so new in the series debut, The Bridge of Sighs--Victory Square is Steinhauer at his best. Once again he masterfully makes crime fiction both personal and political, combining a story of revenge at any cost with a portrait of a country on the brink of collapse.

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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*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 fall—and 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, Keir

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4.0 out of 5 stars Strong Conclusion to an Inventive Series Aug. 21 2010
By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWER
Steinhauer's entire series set in an unnamed Eastern European Communist country has been a fantastic journey. Each has been set in a successive decade commencing in the 1940's and ending with the fall of Communism in this last entry. I am going to miss Sev, Brod, Kolyeszar, Noukas, and the other engaging characters who were woven into an intricate tapestry of crime, espionage, personal conflict, and ideological confusion. This specific book has great pace and mirrors the downfall of Nicolae Ceau'escu's Romania. The author's notes at the back regarding his research add great credibility to this fictional version of events. The plot seeks to tie loose ends from the previous works and this adds to the overall intrigue. Truly a wonderful series that I look forward to re-reading again in the coming years. It has also sparked my interest in reading some non-fiction on Ceau'escu's Romania.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling Sept. 19 2007
If you haven't yet discovered this gem of a series, I can't recommend them enough. Start with his first book The Bridge of Sighs.(2003)
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Concluding Chapter to the Saga Jan. 28 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
I hesitated before purchasing this, due to several disappointing reviews. I couldn't diagree with them more. This books wraps it all up in a very moving, evocative way. I was able to place myself in Steinhauer's Iron Curtain country as the wheels came off in the late '80s. The author conveys the sense of disorientation that must have been common to entire generations of people who had lived through those decades.

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!!!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid Thriller; 3.5 Stars Aug. 1 2010
By R. Albin - Published on
The conclusion of a series of mystery novels set in a fictional Eastern European country. The fictional nation, whose name we never learn, is a synthesis of several central European states. Steinhauer has used a police procedural type approach to explore the history of these states under Communist rule. These books have been generally solid with a cast of recurring characters. This final book is set during the period of collapse of Communist rule. Events in the book are modeled closely on the collapse of the Romanian dictatorship. Steinhauer's plot involves many of the characters of his prior books and reaches back and forth to construct a plot involving events in the prior books. The quality of writing and characterization is solid. The plot is a bit far-fetched but this is probably the best book in this series.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind the Iron Curtain Aug. 24 2009
By Claire Mooers - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Amazon introduced me to Olen Steinhauer - the idea of police procedurals set in Eastern Europe was intriguing. Beginning with "The Bridge of Sighs" thru all 5 books and ending with "Victory Square", you follow the same characters as their careers progress and their experience widens. Excellent way to be reminded of the history we have lived thru in a part of the world most of have little familiarity with. As with Russian novels, I made NO attempt to try to pronounce any of the names !!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transcends the genre Jan. 29 2011
By Domestic Gnome - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
What a great series. Have exhausted all of the superlatives in my previous reviews. An extraordinary achievement that captures perfectly life in Eastern Europe. Steinhauer takes his cast of cops and secret police and spies and citizens, dreamers, revolutionaries, and artists and carries them forward from 1947 to 1990, providing the reader with the full sweep of the Cold War. What begins as a simple police procedural becomes a brilliant portrait of an entire nation. In past reviews I have mentioned Koestler, Dostoevsky, Greene, le Carré, Mankell, Nesbo, et al. Each novel in the series leans toward one or more of these authors - some are more introspective; others, more political.

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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Series May 27 2010
By Pepa - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the last of Olen Steinhauer's series of novels about Eastern Europe between 1956 and the 1980's. All five books are excellent. This one might be my favorite, but the same characters appear throughout the series so I would recommend starting with "The Bridge of Sighs."
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