A Peace Corps volunteer has gone missing in Bulgaria and everyone assumes he is dead, everyone except his grandfather, who refuses to give up hope. Retired literature professor Simon Matthews launches a desperate search only to be lured into a bizarre quest to retrieve a stolen Thracian artifact—a unique object of immense value others will stop at nothing to recover.
A novel set in Bulgaria? This is something new for me and it’s nice to get an insight into and learn about a country that is arguably – and perhaps unfairly – best known for its football team of the 1994 world cup.
My first impressions were that this was going to be a Da Vinci Code style book but I am happy to report that it isn’t and that makes me happy…very happy.
From the outset the author’s words radiate a genuine passion and a deep sense of love for the beauty of Bulgarian culture and history and gives the story that authentic feel.
The book is a slow burner with many plot threads that are unravelled then twined together and developed for the inevitable finale. With the story sometimes reading like a travel book or perhaps an advert for the Bulgarian tourist board,not that that is by any means a criticism, I like the picturesque.
There was something soothing about viewing mountains from afar, as if the capabilities of nature to create such majesty could easily solve the trivial concerns of those who fell captive to their wonders.
The story is divided neatly into parts which seamlessly transition between plot and cultural lessons of Bulgarian idiosyncracies, geography and pronunciation. There is a nice change between third and first person perspectives at one point as we are introduced to key character Scott which helps the book feel fresh and had me sympathising with him more than I perhaps would have done in third person…the workings of the mind render characters ever more intimate.
If there a weakness overall to the narrative though. it is in the characters. I enjoyed the book but I just didn’t feel I cared enough about them…there were a number of questions regarding characters’ actions which kept up the mystery of the book but I just don’t think they were strong enough overall. Having said that there were some good foundations laid, Boris had the potential to be a real figure that the reader loves to hate and equally Katya’s mental fragility and obsessional behaviour was something I did enjoy, she was my favourite character for her complex mix of weakness and misguided nature.
The ending for me felt a little rushed, everything was tied up extremely quickly and I just expected a little more than the low-key conclusion. To offset that though and because this review does not deserve to end on a negative note, the author did bring up the topic of archaeological propaganda which is a fascinating topic that I need to explore and as with the rest of history, evidence can be changed in order to suit one’s purpose…it is something we should be aware of in history books and in the news at large, it’s a good lesson to be taken on board.