Sunday, January 10, 2016

Listening to Olen Steinhauer

I'm more and more curious about Berlin Station and more and more intrigued. 

I've started listening/reading my third Steinhauer book (thank you Audible). I first listened to All the Old Knives and now have started the Yalta Boulevard Sequence:

Though I must apologize to the author because after finishing the first book, The Bridge of Sighs, I've skipped three books to start on Victory Square.  I just had to know what would happen to the lead character, Emil Brod!

But I will come back to the right order, and the next one I'll read or listen to will be The Confession, the second book in the series.

What is the Yalta Sequence/Series?  It takes place in a fictional Eastern European country behind the Iron Curtain from 1948 to 1989.   There's one book per decade.  We experience this world through the lives of homicide detectives and state security officers. We share both their work life and their private life, and how they intersect. We also see a political system developing from the beginning after World War II to the end in 1989. (I spent part of my childhood in a similar political system behind the "Caribbean iron curtain" so the setting piqued my interest.)

As I listen to the books of course I'm thinking about the series we'll see this fall, Berlin Station. I'm wondering about the character of Daniel Miller.  Reading/listening to the books, I can see why Richard Armitage would be perfect for this television series, and also why he would find this character of great interest. And I don't know anything about his Daniel Miller, other than what little we've been told, so I'm basing this on Steinhauer's other characters. We know Daniel is a new CIA field agent undercover in Berlin in the present day. But as I listen/read these books, I can see all the layers that the spies and policemen in these stories have, and I can wonder about Daniel.

Now, I'm not about to write a detailed study of the work of Olen Steinhauer, but just as an average reader, I can admire how he weaves the dark corners of the soul with the dark corners of the world.  His characters whether "good guys" or "bad guys" are all very multi-layered.  He's also a great observer of bureaucracies and how they perpetuate themselves, how they determine what gets resolved or not, how it affects those who work within them, whether in the West (These Old Knives) or in the East (Yalta Sequence).  

There's also love and romance, but maybe the kind that is more realistic, or believable or cynical. Yet, there are loves that endure even amid heartbreak and frustration. Yes, we can love someone, but not always like them. Will there be a romance for Daniel Miller? 

I find interesting that more than one of the love stories are younger men and older women?  Not something you see too much in a US TV show, so will we? 

There's also humor. Dark humor for sure, but humor. I've laughed out loud a few times in my car listening to the books on my way to work. 

One of my favorite scenes in Bridge of Sighs is young detective Emil Brod's first day of work. We've all been there, horrified by sitting alone in our new desk, not knowing what to do. There are great descriptions of Brod's co-workers as he observes them giving him the silent treatment. So much information about each character in just a few sentences. Yet, first impressions can also be quite wrong, can't they?  

One of my favorite shows ever is Spooks (MI5) and I love lovely Lucas North. But I'm sure now that I'm becoming immersed in Olen Steinhauer's work that the new show will be equally excellent, but unique and original. And just by the description we've had so far Lucas and Daniel are different characters. Lucas was an experienced and excellent field agent, who when we meet him has spent eight years in Russian prison being tortured and interrogated. (No, we're not going to discuss Season 9 at all!). Daniel we are told is a cerebral rookie field agent learning on the job. 

I have high hopes for Berlin Station. Truly I think it will be an interesting new adventure for Armitage fans.  I just know Richard must be enjoying being Daniel Miller and making this character his own, as he always does. 


  1. Hey there Fabo, Very interesting post. I was told that someone read on your blog that Olen Steinhauer had written the current Tom Hanks hit 'Bridge of Spies' and my first thought was "Fabo would not make that statement about Steinhauer!" Now I realize the person read too quickly and associated Olen's 'Bridge of Sighs' with the oscar-nominated film 'Bride of Spies' LOL

    Inspector Fabo would never make that reading comprehension mistake. Thanks again for the interesting post - I'm excited as well about Berlin Station. Looking forward to comparing Daniel Miller to Lucas North. I'm sure we'll recognize some luscious welcome similarities such as piercing blue eyes and a velvety deep voice;D

    1. LOL! That's right, not Bridge of Spies, though Bridge of Sighs is also about spies.

      Always read carefully! Thanks for reading my post.

  2. Edit: 'Bridge of Spies' NOT 'Bride of Spies' - latter might be a sequel to the book or movie. Lol


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