Stelian Munteanu has had enough of fixing other people’s problems: all he wants to do is make the long-distance relationship with his wife Sofia work. But when a notorious Romanian businessman asks him to investigate the death of his daughter in the north of England, he reluctantly gets involved once more. This time it turns into a tangled web of shady business dealings and international politics…
And so to my first foray into Romanian crime fiction with Resilience by Bogdan Hrib with a lively translation from Marina Sofia. I actually think to label this as straightforward crime fiction is probably a slight disservice as there’s a meaty narrative here, unfolding into a gripping and intelligent conspiracy thriller across borders, and with astute political commentary too.
The first thing I would say is that attention needs to be paid, as reading this in small bursts as I did, and being largely unfamiliar with some of the political themes addressed, I did have to go back and forth at times to fix these themes in my head. However, having said that I did read the last quarter of the book in a bigger chunk and so my closing impression of the book is that it is clever, complex and provides real insight into the general instability of Europe as a whole, particularly in light of the United Kingdom’s disastrous decision to exit the EU. The themes of nationalism and self-determination loom large in the narrative, and how movements and individuals can be mobilised quickly to challenge the status quo. I found this whole plotline absolutely fascinating, and am keen to explore the politics of this corner of Europe through further reading.
I thought the characterisation was superb and particularly took to the laconic and cynical Stelian Munteanu, an ex-journalist and editor turned private investigator. There’s some wonderful flashes of humour, with deadpan delivery as Munteanu embarks on a case involving the mysterious death of a young woman connected to the Romanian Cultural Institute- a case which quickly escalates across Europe, and at some personal cost to himself. I liked his police buddy Chief Inspector Tony Demetriade, who between worrying about his reputation having seduced a much younger and attractive colleague, and being dragged into the exploits of Munteanu, again proves an entertaining foil against the more serious aspects of the plot. The female characters are well defined with sass and determination in the form of Munteanu’s partner, and has to be said, intellectual superior, Sofia, a London based female DCI Harriet Darlow, and Demetriade’s police colleague and lover Anabella. There’s also a shady spy, an equally shady British journalist, with a shady ex-wife and her shady lover, a shady thug who is more than he appears to be, and a shady social influencer amongst others. So many potential perpetrators of pernicious deeds that it was sometimes difficult to keep up, but it was fun trying to make the connections and expose the conspiracy, which has Munteanu perplexed throughout.
As I said earlier Resilience is clever and complicated, but Hrib keeps a tight control on the pace and structure of the story so no reader is left behind. Bolstered by lively and entertaining characterisation, I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of this author’s work and will definitely be seeking out more. Recommended.
Bogdan Hrib was born in 1966, in Bucharest, Romania. He is the author of the Stelian Munteanu series which features a book editor with a sideline in international police work. Kill the General is the fourth book in the Stelian Munteanu series and Bogdan Hrib’s first novel translated into English. His other books to date are The Greek Connection (2006), The Curse of the Manuscript (2008), and Somalia, Mon Amour (2009). More details on http://www.profusion.org.uk
(With thanks to Corylus Books for the ARC)
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