With the last two prepub reviews in, I’ve suddenly gotten two stars (which, yes, does feel a bit like elementary school). Strangely, Library Journal (my editor tells me) gave me a star while not actually reviewing the book—they just summarized the story.

However, Booklist got very enthusiastic, and have left me feeling very giddy all over.

*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, hes 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 its 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.

— Keir Graff

Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.