For those not familiar with Steinhauer, this is far from being a brain candy novel. It requires work and attention, but the rewards are highly worth the effort. This series is mostly set in a fictional country, a composite of various real States, known mostly as the Capital. The story goes back and forth between 1975 in the Capital and Istanbul and real-life 1968 Prague, and is told from the viewpoints of various characters, which can be confusing. The main event is the explosion mid-flight of a plane hijacked by an Armenian group, the result of a chain of events going back to 1968. Each character, including the investigators – a secret policeman and a homicide detective – is a piece of the complex puzzle marvelously unravelled during the investigation .
Steinhauer is a master at blending the private with the political, making you feel the weight of the Soviet regime on individual lives. Although all the threads are neatly tied at the end, the ending was somewhat of a let-down; the author resorted to a touch of paranormal which didn’t sit well with the realism of the book and felt like a cheat. Despite this, it remains a satisfying, substantial novel.