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We're Ken Hebenstreit and Sharlan Douglas, blogging here about the books we love: Mysteries, suspense, crime fiction. If you want to comment on one of our postings, click on its headline.

Archive for August, 2009

Russian mysteries

I’ve recently read two mysteries set behind the Iron Curtain.  Vodka Neat by Anna Blundy has newspaper correspondent Faith Zanetti in modern Moscow trying to clear herself on a 15-year-old trumped-up murder charge by tracking down her ex-husband black marketeer.

Author Olen Steinhauer sets Bridge of Sighs in a soon-to-be Soviet bloc country right after World War II.  His Emil Brod is a homicide detective fresh out of the academy, assigned to investigate a political hot potato of a murder.

Whether it’s 1945 or 2008, both Zanetti and Brod operate in murky and opaque environments, both human and climatological.  All cops know that everybody lies, but in both books, the reasons for those lies, by  the innocent and the guilty, have motivations that are difficult for the western reader to guess.

And man, do those people drink!  Showing up at work drunk or hungover is unremarkable in either era.

Maybe I should have read Crime and Punishment?  Yeah, it’s not too late, but first I think I’ll try Steinhauer’s latest, The Tourist, which is  sitting here.  Looks like more of a traditional CIA tradecraft thing.