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Liberation Movements (2007)

Liberation Movements (2007)

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3.81 of 5 Votes: 4
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031233205X (ISBN13: 9780312332051)
minotaur books

About book Liberation Movements (2007)

Love, Betrayal, and Terrorism Behind the Iron CurtainMystery piles atop mystery in this fourth installment of Olen Steinhauer’s five-novel cycle of life behind the Iron Curtain. The previous books were set in decades past, the post-war 40s, 50s, and 60s. In Liberation Movements, the action takes place in 1968 and 1975, relating two seemingly unconnected stories that only much later merge, raising yet more mysterious questions.The plot revolves around Peter Husak and Katja Drdova, the former a Czech student in Prague who reacts with diffidence to the 1968 uprising against Communist rule, the latter a homicide detective in a neighboring country a few years younger than Peter whose story unfolds in 1975. As the action rockets forward through alternating chapters set in these two pivotal years, the connection between them slowly emerges. Along the way, we find ourselves caught up in an airplane hijacking engineered by Armenian terrorists, an investigation of a seemingly trivial seven-year-old murder, and troubling reports of parapsychological research by the secret police, and we catch glimpses of a mysterious secret policeman known to be close to the Lieutenant General who heads the secret police. Truth to tell, it’s monumentally confusing for a long time.The five members of the homicide department form a loose thread that links all four novels. Though the cast of characters shifts over the years, there is always at least one principal actor who was on the scene in The Bridge of Sighs, the first book in the cycle, set in 1948. In Liberation Movements, the connector is Colonel Brano Sev, the close-mouthed secret policeman who occupies a desk in the homicide department, now an old man with a formidable reputation for toughness and results. (Emil Brod, a rookie in the first book, has become chief of homicide by 1975 but stays in the background.)Brano Sev plays a central role in Liberation Movements, as does his young protégé, Gavra Noukas, a closeted gay man new to the Militia. Under Brano’s tutelage, Gavra’s life becomes enmeshed in the improbable story of a beautiful young woman with alleged psychic powers and her shadowy handler in the secret police.Liberation Movements is rich with fully developed characters and the fascinating interplay of seemingly unrelated plotlines. The story of the 1915 Armenian genocide weaves in and out of the tale. Sadly, the book is flawed by the author’s failure to resolve the biggest mystery of all. It’s well worth reading nonetheless, for Steinhauer’s mastery of character development and his sure way with words.

Some reviewers found this, the fourth in his 5 part series set in the Unnamed Fictional Eastern European Nation Under Soviet Control After WWII (Ufeenuscaw??), to be the best yet, but like some others, I thought it the weakest.The prior books, centered on the homicide unit of the People’s Militia (but overtly overseen by the resident officer from the Ministry of State Security), evoked the dark and dismal atmosphere of both a war torn country and the effects of being under the Soviet thumb. And of course, the homicide investigations turned into political hot potatoes, as did the personal aspects. This book was much more plot dependent, and I simply found the plot too far fetched: it depended on an incredibly accurate psychic beauty (with some half hearted attempts at a rational explanation for talent/skills by her brother), way too much coincidence, etc. Let’s see, the Milquetoast Slovak music student murders the seemingly nice guy simple soldier, who from unclear reasons is sought out for recruitment by the savvy Security man Brano, but the student become the recruit and quickly rises to levels of power and evil above Brano, while the soldier’s fiancee becomes a homicide officer with/under Brano. And another homicide officer Really?? And, after finally tying up all the loose ends, it ends with a new one, not explained.One reviewer criticized the prior book for using a “shopworn” device of a discovered manuscript. That didn’t bother me near as much as this one’s repeated bouncing between the Prague Spring of 1968 (3rd person) and the present of 1975 in Ufeen and Istanbul (3rd person, but later 1st person by one of the characters previously in 3rd person!). Too disjointed for my taste. IMO, read the first three first before deciding to try this one. I still plan to read #5, but with lowered expectations.

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I liked this carefully plotted and exciting spy/detective story even better than the other novel by Steinhauer that I've read, "The Confession"(of Ferenc Kolyeszar). Steinhauer has jettisoned the shopworn device of the discovered manuscript and instead tells the story via chapters devoted to different characters' points of view. The place is the same, an unnamed Soviet satellite nation, but the period has been moved up several decades, to the late '60s-early '70s. The atmosphere isn't quite so noir, but the action is more exciting. There's never a dull moment as the spies and homicide detectives rush toward the surprising conclusion of their investigations. One thing I didn't like: one of the characters mentioning the Kolyeszar novel by title to another character, as if we're supposed to believe that this "confession" actually existed. This bit of anti-metafiction is sadly out of place in a thriller/mystery, where the reader needs to follow the illusion without distraction.

Steinhauer takes a helluva lot of risks with this novel and almost pulls them off. A hyper-original espionage/crime/revenge thriller set in Steinhauer's imaginary Eastern/Soviet Bloc country (smells like a mix of Hungary and Slovakia). Steinhauer has a genius for characters and he has developed many fantastic ones throughout his 36 Yalta series. IN Liberation Movements he throws a couple huge curves into the series. His two main characters are a gay secret police protégé and a revenge-seeking homicide detective. This isn't your mother's spy novel. Liberation Movements is sometimes a bit jumpy and the non-linear, multiple POV, narrative distracts a little from the setting, but again, I love to see Steinhauer experiment with the spy/crime format. Whatever points he loses because of its messiness, he more than makes up for because of his novelty and originality.

The fourth book of the Yalta sequence, is based in 1968 during the Czech uprising and in the mid 1970's at the time of left wing terrorist organisations such as the Red Army Faction. We meet Leonek for the last time as he boards a plane for a police conference in Istanbul, and this is tied into an event in 1968 that changes the course of future events forever. Themes in the book are revenge, jealousy and belonging. Two new characters are introduced as the original homicide squad is aging or have left. Gavra is Brano Sev's apprentice and the new female inspector ties us into both half's of the story. This was a surprisingly short book, but another excellent one from Steinhauer. Definitely recommend
—Gary Letham

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