It’s been an up-and-down couple weeks in the UK, beginning last week when I learned Random House UK wouldn’t be renewing their contract to acquire my third and fourth books. This wasn’t entirely unexpected, for despite some generous reviews, UK sales have been lackluster, and within the company a series of personnel changes have confused things a bit. That was the down, then this week the up arrived in the form of being acquired by HarperCollins UK, by an editor who apparently wanted to acquire me back in the beginning, when the first two books were being sold.
In addition, Mr Wignall kindly sent me news of a late-coming but still very welcome review of Confession in the Daily Telegraph yesterday. It was interesting in large part because of its criticisms. Since it’s not online, I’ll post a bit here.
In most thrillers, the protagonists gather at some stage to have a clunky conversation that serves as a plot summary. Where this scene occurs in the scheme of the book is a fair indication of the novelist’s opinion of his or her readers’ intelligence. If it is early on, or if (God forbid) there is more than one scene of this nature, it suggests the author does not believe his reader can hold more than two consecutive facts in his head. Olen Steinhauer has great confidence - perhaps too much - in his readers, and his scene comes towards the very end. By that time, it provides a welcome respite from the complications, misunderstandings and confusion that ripple through this first-rate thriller.
Steinhauer is sometimes so elegant a writer that it is difficult to distinguish one character’s dialogue from another, but this is a powerful, thought-provoking literary thriller in the mould of Philip Kerr’s Berlin Noir trilogy. I hope it is the second in a good, long series.