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The Bridge of Sighs: A Novel (Yalta Boulevard Quintet) Paperback – February 12, 2004

79 customer reviews
Book 1 of 5 in the Ruthenia Quintet Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in 1948 in a small, unnamed Eastern European country devastated by WWII and still occupied by Russian troops, Steinhauer's promising debut introduces 22-year-old homicide inspector Emil Brod of the People's Militia. Brod's police academy training has prepared him for neither the rude reception he receives from his homicide comrades nor the difficult and risky assignment handed him as his initiation. The brutal murder of a moderately successful writer of patriotic songs enmeshes the bewildered Brod in an investigation hampered by his inexperience and lack of support from above as well as by other forces unknown but soon felt. Brod's trial by fire takes him through city and village, from small bars and tenements to streetwalkers and party officials. Steinhauer deftly presents minor characters, while he richly renders the country's travails as war is followed by occupation, suspicion, corruption and betrayal. The trail of murder, blackmail and wartime secrets even leads Brod to a divided Berlin, where he observes the non-stop activity at Tempelhof Airport during the Allied airlift. Perhaps the novel's weakest element is the amorphous Brod, though his appeal grows as the story progresses. One looks forward to Brod's developing into a fully realized character in future books in the series.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In 1948, in a small, unnamed Eastern European country, homicide detective Emil Brod has been assigned a case that no one wants him to solve. To make matters worse, he's only 22 years old, this is his first case in the People's Militia, and his colleagues think he's a spy. The victim, a state songwriter, appears to have been blackmailing a politicos, a man formerly known as Smerdyakov the Butcher who has connections to the highest levels of the state and a past that includes wartime atrocities for the Nazis and then the Russians. In his attempt to uncover the truth, Brod soon finds himself battling a host of obstacles (including the murder of his best witness). At the same time, he finds himself attracted to the songwriter's wife, who becomes his lover and a possible victim herself. This is an intelligent, finely polished debut, loaded with atmospheric detail that effortlessly re-creates the rubble-strewn streets of the postwar period in an Eastern state "liberated" from German occupation by the Russians. Highly recommended for mystery collections.
Ronnie H. Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Yalta Boulevard Quintet (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (February 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312326017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312326012
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Olen Steinhauer grew up in Virginia, and has since lived in Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Texas, California, Massachusetts, and New York. Outside the US, he's lived in Croatia (when it was called Yugoslavia), the Czech Republic and Italy. He also spent a year in Romania on a Fulbright grant, an experience that helped inspire his first five books. He now lives in Hungary with his wife and daughter.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Larry VINE VOICE on February 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In Eastern Europe, 1948, twenty two year old detective Emil Brod is given his first murder case for the People's Militia. A famous patriotic songwriter is killed in his home. As Emil investigates the murder he realizes there may have been a political reason for the killing. While questioning the upper hierarchy of the party, he is suddenly suspected of being a spy. With death being the penalty for a convicted spy, Brod now finds his own life in danger. He can expect no help from his colleagues in the People's Militia. Emil, with so much at stake, cannot abandon his search for the truth.
THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS is a period piece historical novel with a major strength being the descriptions of the locale- the exact location of which is unknown. Characters almost play a supporting role to their surroundings. The author keeps things in proper perspective, however, as the plot moves quickly to its clever ending. With the strong reliance on the almost unbearable oppression of the people, one immediately recalls the historical dramas of J. Robert Janes and LIE IN THE DARK by Dan Fesperman. Very well done.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By T. Stroll on December 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
It shows the continuing genius of "Casablanca" that a single verse from that movie can encapsulate the atmosphere of "The Bridge of Sighs." It comes from Annina, the young Bulgarian refugee who tells Rick Blaine, "We come from Bulgaria. Oh, things are very bad there, monsieur. A devil has the people by the throat." That's "The Bridge of Sighs" in a nutshell, and therein lies the challenge to the reader: how to enjoy such a relentlessly cheerless plot.

Moreover, neither the main character, Emil Brod, nor his love interest were particularly engaging. Brod's grandfather, a logorrheic simpleton, drove me to distraction with his tedious and tendentious bromides about the glories of socialism.

The novel was undermined further for a reason that's not the author's fault. I listened to the audio version and found it irritating. The reader made a number of characters sound like Grandpa Simpson, whose voice on "The Simpsons" cartoon television show is perhaps the most grating on television. There's a gay character who the reader caused to sound like the stereotypical mincing homosexual--with an overlay of Grandpa Simpson! The women, young and old, tended to sound octogenarian.

But Steinhauer is a talented writer. If you start by reading "The Bridge of Sighs," you may stop there, which would be a shame. Read Steinhauer's "The Tourist" first. It's a fine thriller, worth five stars. Then turn to "The Bridge of Sighs" and see if you like it. People's tastes vary, and the written text may be easier to absorb than was the audio version.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There's already a couple of plot summaries here, so I won't add to the pile, except to say that THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS succeeds brilliantly in presenting a fresh new take in a genre in which we thought we'd seen all it could offer.
Fans of the pinnacle works of John LeCarre and Graham Greene should take note of Steinhauer. THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS evokes a deep understanding of that cold, bitter world behind the iron curtain, but with a modern sensibility of encroaching history soon to pass. I found myself unable to put this book down.
With its taut, lean storytelling, complex characters and dark, foreboding atmosphere, the book begs to be made into a film - hopefully one that doesn't diminish the book's strengths, as this novel promises to be the first in a vital new series. I await the next instalment with great anticipation.
Jake Steele
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By CEB on May 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This novel takes place in 1948 in an unnamed Eastern European country. World War II has come to an end, the country has been liberated from the Germans, and Russian soldiers still occupy the war-ravaged city. Main character, Emil Brod, recent graduate of the police academy, now begins his career as a homicide detective with the People's Militia. Brod, for no reason he can fathom, is shunned by his fellow detectives. After several days of inactivity, Brod is finally given a case--his co-workers wait expectantly for him to fail. A patriotic songwriter for the state has been brutally murdered, and political ties are evident.

The Bridge of Sighs is wonderfully written, rich in vivid and detailed description. Characters are complex in their development, and the book has an overall sense of foreboding.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By vanishingpoint on August 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Bridge of Sighs takes place in a very unique time and place -- post WWII (1948) and in a tiny Eastern block country. It's wonderful how the hero of our story, Emil Brod, is relentlessly nailed to the wall right from the beginning. He starts a new job, everybody hates him, and things at home -- living with his grandparents -- aren't exactly great, either. And it gets worse before it gets better.
In a nutshell, this is a wonderful by-the-book detective story, though the by-the-book-ness is perhaps its weakest point. The story has been told a million times before -- the woman in trouble, the corrupt official, the hero going through the ringer before overcoming the villain. I just wish Steinhauer would have gone slightly off the formula to keep it a bit fresher.
But that's a very minor complaint. This is a superbly novel with identifiable, realistic characters and a plot that just keeps on moving. Steinhauer can flat-out write: look for a tightly constructed chapter near the middle of the book where he intercuts a flashback (Brod's fight with his arch enemy aboard the ship) and present-day action (a hooker trying to get Brod's attention). Artful, beautiful, perfect.
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