The Istanbul Variations by Olen Steinhauer Harper, HK$132 Reading The Istanbul Variations (also known as Liberation Movements) should persuade new fans of Olen Steinhauer to consume other books in his series of cold war thrillers. His fourth volume consists of two stories that bounce from 1968 to seven years hence. Little appears to connect the student, Peter, who is being held for trying to flee Czechoslovakia after a Soviet clampdown on supporters of the Prague Spring, and a 1975 hijacking of a Turkish Airlines flight by Armenian terrorists that ends in a midair explosion. The attack kills a People's Militia detective planning to defect to the west. Charged with the investigation of the disaster are Brano Sev and apprentice Gavra Noukas, whose strained relationship is tested when threads linking the two seemingly disparate events are discovered by another investigator, Katja Drdova. Mixing politics and philosophy with a mucky settling of scores, Steinhauer has produced a satisfying thriller that deserves plaudits on many fronts, including characterisation, plot and atmospheric detail. Its alternative title hints at Steinhauer's take on freedom - that it isn't something any movement can promise. The Istanbul Variations is proof that good spy novels will find space on bookshelves.