I got a complimentary copy of this one from the author in exchange for an honest review.
It is a story which contains some reality: the terrorist attack at Burgas Airport in 2012, during which five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian bus driver were murdered. In ‘The Burgas Affair’, the aftermath of the attack is fictional.
An Israeli data analyst and a Bulgarian detective are tracking down those responsible. The two must establish whether the terrorists were assisted by a Bulgarian crime organization, in laying the groundwork for the attack.
Shadows of the past keep interfering, which is why what was supposed to be a routine investigation turns into a nightmare. The detective’s interactions with a crime boss pursuing a vendetta against him threaten to throw him off track. At the same time, his partner’s pursuit of the terrorists and their accomplices brings up painful memories of a family tragedy.
The huge asset of this one was the fact that the author described Bulgaria very vividly – it was obvious at once he was there, talked with those people, drank rakija, visited local hotels and train stations and so on. Its narration had a distinct colour which I appreciated.
When it came to the main characters I have to admit they were three-dimensioned and rather complex. I liked the fact that Boyko Stanchev was chased by shadows from his police past and also Alaya was haunted by some traumatic event. The secret of Alaya’s brother, Tomen, who hated everything Bulgarian, was also a nice addition to the plot.
What didn’t work? I might be wrong but in my very humble opinion the style could have been polished a tad more. Below I quote two passages which, I suppose, would profit from another editing session:
“She shifted her weight, resting one hand on her enlarged belly. She needed to sit down. And she had to pee. She was tired, despite her nap on the flight. She hoped their hotel-room bed would be comfortable, but that really didn’t matter. In her present state, she was capable of sleeping anywhere.”
“You’re catching up fast, Boyko. They will ask many questions. Did the bomber know that this particular bus would transport Israeli tourists? Was the bomb on the bus or under the bus? Is the bomber dead or alive? Was the bomb detonated by remote control? Did the bomber have accomplices, or did he act alone? And more important than any other question: who sent the bomber?” p.22
I was also a bit surprised by the fact how naïve and inexperienced the main characters sounded. Boyko is an experienced police detective. Alaya is an intelligent, young Jewish woman, a member of Mossad. Still, from time to time, they just sound as if they’ve never undergone any practical course or schooling in their lives. An example? Read one scene, introduced by the internal dialogue of Alaya:
“Richard Milkin was not the bomber’s real name . And, the bomber was not from Michigan after all! She understood this now, yet this was this man’s identity as he travelled round Bulgaria. And the other names were the ones used by his collaborators. ‘We should call to report this information, no matter what’ she said. ‘My phone’s battery is dead. Can I use yours?”
Hmm… wasn’t Mossad (a.k.a. HaMossad leModiʿin uleTafkidim Meyuḥadim) supposed to be the very best intelligence agency in the world? How come its member didn’t take care of her mobile while away in an foreign country on an important mission? Why it was so hard for her to assume that the suspected terrorists used false names and a set of false documents?
Despite its flaws it was definitely a thriller with a lot potential and a story with great local colour. Give it one more editing and it will be completely recommendable.