RARA-AVIS: Olen Steinhauer's 'The Confession.'

From: David Wright ( dwright333@yahoo.com)
Date: 20 Jan 2004

     I want to recommend Olen Steinhauer's 'The Confession' to the list - a really fine haunted homicide detective novel set in Eastern Europe in the 50's.

In 1956, Khrushchev denounces Stalinism, thawing cold fear across the Eastern Bloc. Amidst the heady optimism of short-lived strikes and protests, a general amnesty for political prisoners is declared, and old injustices are roused as vengeful retributions. Down at People's Militia hq., Inspector Ferenc Kolyeszar is faced with an apparent suicide, the missing wife of a prominent Party member, a charred and brutalized corpse, the watchful eyes of a newly arrived official from Moscow and his sycophant on the force, a bad case of writer's block, and the imminent collapse of his marriage. An old friend and fellow officer appears to be cuckolding him, and Ferenc is nursing some latent obsessions of his own, sexual and otherwise. The story of a troubled homicide detective wrestling with internal and external demons is hardly new, but seldom is it presented with such depth and personal intensity. Beyond delivering an involving police procedural in an intriguing setting, the author relates with spare irony and doomed pathos his narrator's psychological journey through the vexatious complexities of marriage and totalitarian life, drawn toward the deceptive clarity of brutal action. This second installment in a loosely-linked series is enthusiastically recommended for all mystery collections, and to all fans of well-made hardboiled and noir fiction.

David Wright

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