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Victory Square    by Olen Steinhauer order for
Victory Square
by Olen Steinhauer
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Author of an acclaimed Eastern European crimes series - including The Bridge of Sighs, The Confession, 36 Yalta Boulevard, and Liberation Movements - Olen Steinhauer now brings readers the latest and perhaps best installment in the sequence: Victory Square.

When Victory Square opens, the sixty-four year old protagonist, homicide detective Emil Brod, is poised to retire, but first he must - because of enigmatic orders from superiors - look into the recent death of a senior ministry officer, Yuri Kolev. All superficial indicators point to a heart attack as the cause of death; however, since Brod is following such odd orders in this case, the veteran detective remains wary and thinks further inquiry might be appropriate. After some forensic tests, Brod's hunch about Kolev's death is confirmed: a drug overdose (poison?) was the cause, and - if other clues are correct - it seems not to have been accidental.

In the meantime, in an apparently unrelated sequence of events, Kolev - shortly before his death - had sent Gavra Noukas to a small American town on a singular mission: find Lebed Putonski (a.k.a. Lubov Shevchenko), a defector who had apparently been relocated and given a new identity by the CIA, and then - when Noukas finds him - Noukas is supposed to protect him from unspecified dangers. Things go smoothly, at least at first, and the defector is easy to locate, but Noukas is surprised when the defector is abruptly murdered.

The two seemingly unrelated murders combine to catapult Brod into his most sensitive and explosive case yet. In an environment of pervasive duplicity (throughout society and within the government) and explosive political turmoil (with the country deteriorating into anarchy and revolution), Brod must move carefully and swiftly because the two murders may be only the tip of the iceberg; in fact, everything seems to be connected to a forty-year-old case when an old Gestapo agent had been sentenced to hard labor, and now - if Brod's instincts are correct - someone is determined to eliminate a select list of individuals: Kolev and the defector may have been just the beginning; Brod and others may be next.

Intricately plotted, populated with intriguing characters, and effectively exploring provocative and contemporary themes, Victory Square is further evidence (along with the other titles in the series) that Olen Steinhauer is a powerfully effective master of dazzling espionage - crime thrillers in the tradition of Graham Greene, John LeCarré, Alan Furst, and Martin Cruz Smith. Steinhauer's Victory Square, a wonderfully clever, well-crafted tale, is highly recommended. Enjoy!

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