[Since I ran across Kirkus tonight, I’m adding it below…]
Since it’s that time of year (two months before the release date of my next book), in my spare moments I’ve been checking and rechecking the prepub mags for reviews of Victory Square. A couple minutes ago my persistence was rewarded by Publishers Weekly.
It’s a great review, and I’d be a bit of a baby if I wished aloud that they’d given it one of their hallowed stars, so I won’t complain. That would be childish.
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.)
Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretaryhere
In the almost brilliant conclusion of his ambitious Eastern European series (Liberation Movements, 2006, etc.), Steinhauer focuses on what happens to moral codes in a collapsing country. It’s a tumultuous period. To Emil Brod, Chief of the People’s Militia in his hard-pressed (unnamed) little country, it’s as if “time was snapping in half.” With the economy in shambles, rations and tempers are growing short, and the long-ruling Pankov government is in much more trouble than it thinks.
Brod — met first as an idealistic 22-year-old cop at the onset of his career — is now 63, about to retire, and glad of it. He works his cases, yes, but that’s because he’s a man to whom persistence has always amounted to a matter of honor. In company with almost everyone around him, however — in particular his tough-minded, sharply observant wife — he senses that the center will not hold, and that a flight plan might be advisable. At this point, almost by accident, he comes upon certain unsettling information: a list, six names, among them his. Two of those named have already been killed in circumstances undeniably suspicious, and there’s every reason to believe that the power behind the deaths is highly placed and highly motivated. Brod looks for a common thread and finds it. Forty years ago, he helped jail Jerzy Michalec, a Nazi war criminal. All the people on the list were involved to some degree too. For his own sake, and for the sake of those he cares deeply about, Brod must now figure out why they’ve suddenly become targets. He needs answers, and he gets them — but by the time he does, he’s no longer quite the good man he was. A Kafka-like evocation that loses some of its chill when the research begins to show. Still, the first 200 pages are masterful.