36 Yalta Boulevard

36 Yalta Boulevard is the address of the Ministry of State Security in Olen Steinhauer’s fictional eastern European country and the title of the third book in his series that takes place there. His lead character, a brooding, relentless operative, Brano Sev, sets out on what may or may not be a set up that costs him his life or at least a couple dozen years in the gulag.

The plot has Brano working for the man who recruited him to the service at the end of the Second World War and/or invisible hands behind the scenes. Brano is never quite sure but his faith in his superior is absolute, even when he’s accused of murder, abused in prison, and has the opportunity to defect. This is where Steinhauer shines. A run of the mill espionage novel would have this guy crack and dash off with a pretty girl, a fancy car, and all the trappings of western decadence. Not Brano Sev. He’s loyal, if not always to the powers that be, to the concept into which he was born.

His willing ignorance of machinations above his rank is Brano’s greatest fault, that and his failure to accept that others, including his mother and another expatriate, might actually care for him. These elements serve to bolster a story that reveals a side of the cold war mostly ignored by popular novelists.

I recommend this book for patient readers interested in exploring a place where things are never quite good, just less bad at times. Therein lies the appeal, seeing the other side through the eyes of a native.

Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 11:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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