Thursday, July 5, 2018

Heard: "The Bridge of Sighs" by Olen Steinhauer

Heard: The Bridge of Sighs by Olen Steinhauer, 2003, download from Wisconsin Digital Library.

This was okay by I enjoyed Steinhauer's contemporary spy novels much more. This is set in 1948 Eastern Europe in a fictional country. Emil is a 22-year-old homicide inspector. He spent the war years in Finland and away from most death and destruction. Both his parents died in the war - his father in combat and his mother starving to death as a Army nurse in the mountains - and he lives with his grandparents in the capitol city.

Emil attended the police academy and is assigned to the homicide unit. Yeah, weird huh? A brand new police officer assigned to a job that most places only give to the most experienced and skilled officers. Emil shows up his first day is mostly ignored by all the officers. Until, towards the end of his first or second day, Emil tries to speaking to another cop and receives a hard punch into his gonads for the trouble. The punch makes Emil puke and stumbles home at the end of the day.

Emil's grandfather is a longtime Red. He went to Russia during the revolution and all about the communist revolution. Emil is tired of his grandfather's lectures. Emil is pretty much alone. He is getting a cold shoulder at work and all his past love affairs have been war and post-war relationships of convenience with women needing protection or dealing with personal trauma.

Emil is unhappy and demands a case from the homicide division's boss. Boss gives Emil a meaningless filing task but Emil attacks the job, returns the files, and demands a case. Boss says, "Well, there is this one minor killing" and sends Emil to a death scene. Emil gets there, looks around, and realizes the corpes is a once highly placed commie. "Uh-oh. A politically connected dead guy? There's no way I'm winning this scenario."

Anyhoo. Emil starts investigating and meets the not-so-grieving Widow who was separated from her money grubbing husband. Emil gets hot and heavy for widow. More things happen and spoilers await.

Emil finds out the Corpse was blackmailing a rising star ready to enter the ruling council of commies. Emil is shot by the mysterious man who seems to be working with Council Commie. More things happen and the homicide dicks decide Emil is a righeous dude. Emil discovers the Council Commie used to work for the Nazis and rolled up spies for the Krauts. Council Dude then switched sides to the Reds and used his Nazi experience to slaughter a bunch of Hitler Youth he used to command.

More things happen and there is a mostly happy ending.

Spoilers over. As spy novels go this is smaller scale. No big international schemes and conspiracies. Hell, this not really a spy novel anyway. This is a murder case where the detective has to visit Berlin to chase leads and then has to maneuver to avoid the powerful political guy's reach.

I say read some Alan Furst books if you want to try Eastern Europe espionage world war and post-world war stories.

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