36 Yalta Boulevard - Olen Steinhauer Unfortunately, I am again reading/listening to a series out-of-order. Bridge of Sighs was first, followed by The Confession. They began in the 1940’s and by the time we reach 36 Yalta Boulevard (the fictitious address of the East European country’s --we never are quite sure which, but is typically Soviet Bloc-- spy service, the Ministry of State Security.)

Brano Sev is sent/led/tricked (we’re never quite sure which) into going to Austria where he is framed for a murder. Relegated to a factory job by his bosses, he is resurrected for another in his home town where he accidentally kills one of his handlers - or is he?. Always one to follow orders and assuming he is part of a grand plan, he’s soon up to his ears in a nebulous labyrinth of betrayal and deceit, unable to trust anyone, and he begins to question his superiors orders.

In one of the great ironies, Brano really believes in the system, even as it betrays and beats him, and despite his knowledge of its corruption. He retains a child-like faith that’s at once simplistic and complicated. It’s confusing at times, but that confusion reflects Brano’s own.

There are some really good novels out there in the spy genre examining the gray netherworld of human actions where the protagonists stumble their way through a maze that often seems to have no end, and writers like Le Carre, Seymour, Cruz Smith, Furst, and others have fertile ground to display the misty world of human frailty. Add Steinhauer to the list.

Ludlum fans will not be interested.