Eastern Europe, 1956: Comrade Inspector Ferenc Kolyeszar, who is a proletariat writer in addition to his job as a state militia homicide detective, is a man on the brink. Estranged from his wife, whom he believes is cheating on him with one of his colleagues, and frustrated by writer's block, Ferenc's attention is focused on his job. But his job is growing increasingly political, something that makes him profoundly uncomfortable. When Ferenc is asked to look into the disappearance of a party member's wife and learns some unsavory facts about their lives, the absurdity of his position as an employee of the state is suddenly exposed. At the same time, he and his fellow militia officers are pressed into service policing a popular demonstration in the capital, one that Ferenc might rather be participating in. These two situations, coupled with an investigation into the murder of a painter that leads them to a man recently released from the camps, brings Ferenc closer to danger than ever before-from himself, from his superiors, from the capital's shadowy criminal element.
Ferenc Kolyeszar, the main character in this sharp tale of murder, political intrigue and human failings, is a large, disillusioned police inspector with a weakness for drink and cigarettes. Narrator Dean's naturally deep, gravelly voice works well in that context, but the rest of his performance is uneven. The novel takes place in an unnamed Eastern Bloc nation in 1956, and it centers on a series of converging discoveries by Kolyeszar and his colleagues. As Moscow asserts an increasing influence in the country, their office and their personal lives become charged with distrust and fear, a sense that becomes more pronounced as they draw closer to unveiling a dire secret. Dean has a clear sense of drama and narrative pacing, and he wisely steps back and allows Steinhauer (The Bridge of Sighs) to set the progressively nervy tone. But while he renders most of the male characters believably-albeit without much nuance-he struggles with females and with sustaining any voice that's said to have an idiosyncrasy. The production is spare and straightforward, but the engrossing story makes up for the recording's slight imperfections. Simultaneous release with the St. Martin's Minotaur hardcover (Forecasts, Dec. 1, 2003). (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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1 . A good book when traveling to Eastern Europe
Posted November 09, 2010 by Ohio tom , ClevelandI picked us "Confession" to read on my trip along the Danube in Eastern Europe. I was a good choice. the intriguing aspect of Eastern Euroe is the Communist period after WWII. This book helped personalize what it must have been like during those difficult times. The story meshes with the experiences told to us by locals. The book is fast moving - a good travel book
March 31, 2005
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Excerpt from The Confession by Olen Steinhauer
Packing up the dacha was a simple, silent affair. Three weeks' worth of clothes, damp underwear still hanging from the back porch, pens and paper, and all the books. I saw Flaubert and Dostoyevsky to the Skoda's trunk, then wedged my own novel beside them. The creased, sewage-colored paperback was a vainglory I still felt I could afford.
Stories begin this way, with the mundane details. Underwear, books, leaves. Because these are the irrefutable facts; they exist outside speculation. I'm in that dacha now, verifying everything, because while other points in time may be chosen, this is where my confession truly begins.
Then there were the empty brandy bottles, clanking on their way to the car, two full boxes. Magda had helped out that first week, when the conversation sank into mute glances and nods, pouring whenever our glasses were low. But after she walked out I had two weeks to tackle the bottles alone: a big, hulking thirty-seven-year-old drinking brandy from tiny glasses, spending the days in front of blank sheets of paper at the table that looked out onto the dried forest, thinking only that, yes, my wife has finally left me.
And each morning I woke with a stunned head and a pile of still-empty pages.
Once everything was collected I made the slow walk through the bedroom, living room, kitchen. I even looked in the fly-infested out-house to be sure nothing was left behind. Methodical. This was the only way not to imagine her in the shadows and ignore the long walnut hairs left on the sofa. The kitchen stank of old, spilled liquor and the occasional gusts of forest decay through the open windows.
Locked the shutters, then the doors. No extended pause on the front steps, no reflections while looking back on her family's dacha, nervously adjusting my rings.
It took a half hour to reach the main road, then I turned south, where the trees thinned into farmland and fields, and the sun caught on the dirty windshield. I tried in vain to dampen my mouth. Behind a detour, the road was torn apart, and an old woman poured a kettle of steaming tar into a hole while other women with kerchiefs on their heads leaned on shovels and watched. The Skoda's engine sputtered when I went too fast, and I remembered Georgi's comment when I'd first bought the car. He had walked around it slowly, a hand on his chin, then said: I do believe that very soon socialist engineering will accomplish the dream of fitting an automobile into a shoe box.