By Michelle Kung
Updated March 12, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Steinhauer has crafted a mesmerizing and richly atmospheric follow-up to his 2003 debut, ”The Bridge of Sighs.” Set in an unnamed Eastern European country under satellite Soviet rule in 1956, this meticulously researched novel follows Ferenc Kolyeszar, a homicide inspector and WWII veteran who morbidly wears the rings of his war victims. While investigating the suicide of a former museum curator and the disappearance of a party official’s wife, Kolyeszar discovers a possible high-level government connection to both crimes that forces him to reevaluate his priorities — and his political loyalties. Though it often moves at a frustratingly slow clip, ”The Confession” entertainingly captures the fear and frustration of a ”society of discontent with its hand on its only pistol, waiting to fire.”