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The Vienna Assignment Paperback – 21 Apr 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; (Reissue) edition (21 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007210884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007210886
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2 x 12.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 152,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Praise for ‘The Vienna Assignment’:

‘Fascinating…clever… a beautifully written spy thriller.’ Guardian

‘Well researched…Steinhauer vividly captures the atmospher and mood of the time with credible characters and impressive detail.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Highly recommended.’ Irish Times

‘Steinhauer shows himself to be a master of plotting…he doesn’t put a foot wrong…exquisitely written, full of well-drawn characters.’ Irish Examiner

Praise for Olen Steinhauer:

'A powerful, thought-provoking literary thriller in the mould of Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy.' Daily Telegraph

‘Steinhauer is a welcome addition to the wartime ground mapped out by Philip Kerr and Alan Furst.’ Guardian

‘Stunning and unique.’ LA Times

‘Grips from beginning to end.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Steinhauer takes his familiar material and brilliantly infuses it with noirish twists and dark psychology… utterly compelling.’ Time Out

‘Think of the suspenseful erudition of Alan Furst's thrillers, especially the earlier ones such as ‘The Polish Officer’ and Philip Kerr's eye-opening 'Berlin Noir' trilogy… Steinhauer's debut – the start of a promised series – is right up there on those stellar heights, casting new light on relatively recent history we thought we already knew everything about.’ Chicago Tribune

Book Description

Murder in the city of spies

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By George Rodger on 29 Nov 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A great read - I think Steinhauer is upping his game immensely. I enjoyed 'Bridge of Sighs' (and would still like more of Emil Brod and the immediate postwar backdrop!), wasn't fully taken by 'The Confession', but his latest shows a thriller master in the making. I'm sure writers hate comparisons, but Steinhauer's spare, cool writing reminds me of Alan Furst, although with an enjoyably bleaker mood - suiting the unnamed 1960s Soviet Bloc setting.
I do like a crime or thriller with a 'new' surrounding, and Steinhauer is mining a rich seam with his take on espionage-flavoured crime behind - or across - the Iron Curtain, like a Soviet mirror image Len Deighton or early Le Carre. (Or should that be 'wilderness of mirrors' image?) And you don't at any time feel any mis-steps: the handling of the characters is very assured, as is the building of tension, the plot twists - although some you might see rather than later - and the grubby atmosphere of compromised loyalties, justifiable paranoia, and empty slogans. I look forward to the next one from Steinhauer.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Gale on 7 Feb 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My reading habits have been along the lines of Philip Kerr - Alan Furst - David Downing - Marek Krajewski - Olen Steinhauer.
I've only docked this book a point because I have an issue with the lack of a real country setting rather than the generic Eastern Bloc state Mr Steinhauer has created. The gripping and rich narrative however is not compromised by this unique take on story telling and to be quite honest it has started to grow on me as I now embark on my 4th book of his which started with 'Bridge of Sighs'. I look forward to reading his entire catalogue!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sam Tyler on 9 Sep 2009
Format: Paperback
I wasn't around for the Cold War, but I do like to read about it. This was a time when spies often knew who each other where, but lived within a set of unwritten rules. The Western spy network is well covered in fiction, but the East still remains more of a mystery to me. Olen Steinhauer tackles this in `The Vienna Assignment' which focuses on an Eastern agent and his entanglement in loyalty, betrayal and murder. The harsh reality of life in the East during the 60s are shown well and suggests that Steinhauer researched the period. I liked the way that an agent could be captured and tortured only for them to come out and forgive the torturer as it was part of the job.

As a spy novel `Vienna' hits all the right notes. Steinhauer paints a provocative picture of post war Europe; lead Brano Sev is a good character as he is moody and grim, but also loyal and determined. The fact that the book flings him from place to place never allowing Sev to trust anyone makes it classic noir. However, like with a lot of noir the book gets confused by its own twists and turns. The entire plot needs to be explained by a character towards the end as it is so confusing, I much prefer to understand the plot whilst reading it. Steinhauer's portrayal of the post Stalinist spy network is enough to make the book worth reading; it is a shame that it becomes too complex towards the end.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Brewer on 8 Nov 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I liked this book and - albeit with some reservations - would recommend it to anyone who wants to steep themselves in the treacherous world of Cold War espionage and counter-espionage without leaving the fireside. As others have said, it's in the mould of Alan Furst, and originally it was having exhausted Furst's books that I found Olen Steinhauer's work.

The main character is Brano Sev, a major in a Communist state security service who features as a minor character in the author's earlier work The Bridge of Sighs. Following a "black op" in Vienna which goes disastrously wrong for Sev, he is sacked from his post and directed to work in a factory. He then joins a fellow countryman in a hair-raising defection via Hungary back to Vienna, where most of the action takes place. Of course nothing is at it seems on the surface, and we are led through a complex maze of characters and plot until the final denouement.

I particularly like the use of dialogue - generally cool and under-stated - and the mood and detail of the 60's felt mostly right to me (I was there and do remember it!). Brano is a interesting mix of hero and anti-hero, ultimately loyal to the State but only too aware of the personal price he pays for that loyalty.

So why only 3 stars? Two main reasons - firstly the plot is very confusing throughout most of the book, and right at the end it needs one of the characters to explain what was actually going on (if you recall the explanations at the end of episodes of Perry Mason you'll know what I mean). I can see how this approach to plot can be justifiable and effective when what the reader knows is also what the hero knows, but Brano must know more than we do.
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By Rob Kitchin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 12 May 2012
Format: Paperback
One ingredient of a good spy thriller is a sense of mystery, with the reader and the main protagonist not really sure quite what is happening. Steinhauer manages to maintain this uncertainty to the end of The Vienna Assignment. Just as you think you've got a handle on what is happening and why, the mirrors are shifted and a new view appears. The prose is mostly quite functional, but the plotting is carefully constructed, the shifting ground and mind games well framed and paced, tempting the reader along. The characterization is for the most part good, with Sev in particular a well-penned character, with depth, layers and rich back story. The Cold War sense of place in Vienna is well portrayed and contextualised. My big gripe is that Sev's home country, in which a large portion of the book takes place, is unnamed and is therefore a bit ephemeral. I'm not really sure why. It makes for an odd balance, where the history and places of Austria and Hungary are a central component, but they are opposed by a generic Iron Curtain country lacking in context. Overall, a solid spy thriller with an interesting protagonist and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until near the end.
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