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THE CONFESSION by Olen Steinhauer Kirkus Star


by Olen Steinhauer

Pub Date: March 8th, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-30328-9
Publisher: Minotaur

Postwar Eastern Europe chillingly evoked by a storyteller (Bridge of Sighs, 2003) who understands the relentless conjunction between character and suspense.

In 1956, the Soviet Union is a dark, debilitating presence in the lives of Eastern Europeans. Ferenc Kolyeszar is a homicide detective, a Comrade Inspector in the People’s Militia of his unnamed, war-ravaged little country. For some time the Soviet miasma has been affecting the way he thinks and behaves. But then comes the order to help squash a student demonstration, one he might well have joined under altered circumstances. He swings his club, knocks a few people down, then bolts, suddenly confronted with an overpowering sense of a society and a self in decay. He feels “dirtied” in ways he can only partially articulate. The murder case he’s handed a few days later does little to restore lost equilibrium. A party bureaucrat whose wife has disappeared tells the police he fears foul play. His prophecy is soon justified—except that the official himself is the vicious perpetrator. Though it’s a bad case, with roots in a murky past the KGB wants to keep buried, Ferenc works it assiduously, with helpless fatalism, knowing it has personal disaster written all over it. But he’s willing to plunge into disaster if that’s the price of redemption.

Good enough to suggest comparison with Graham Greene: place the author in the forefront of contemporary suspense writers, and make your mouth occasionally go dry.