As a book reviewer, one of the best parts of my job is discovering new authors. William Maz was an unknown name to me until The Bucharest Dossier landed in my hands, and I can now say I am a fan.
This international espionage thriller follows Bill Hefflin, a Romanian expat who’s parents brought him to America as a child during the Cold War. After graduating from Harvard, he’s recruited by the CIA as an analyst. His skills are put to the test when he’s asked to return to Bucharest. It’s the start of the bloody 1989 uprising against Nicolae Ceaușescu, the Communist leader of the country.
What unfolds is a complex web of intrigue, in which Hefflin is not just an observer but a key player in a game manipulated by the CIA and the KGB. Amid this political turmoil, Hefflin also harbors a personal quest—to uncover the fate of his childhood sweetheart, Pusha, who disappeared years ago.
Bunny trail alert. I was so fascinated by the historical elements in this novel that I spent longer than necessary researching the facts. Nicolae Ceaușescu was the leader of Romania from 1965 until his overthrow in 1989. He and his wife, who he appointed the first deputy prime minister, lived in opulence as the Romanian population suffered food shortages because Ceausescu exported most of the harvest.
The Ceausescus were arrested during the revolution. Their trial, which began and ended on Christmas Day, lasted less than an hour. The military judge declared both guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced them to death. A firing squad immediately executed them.
I remember seeing horrifying images of children in Romanian orphanages. Beginning in the late 1960s, Ceausescu battled a demographic crisis by banning contraception. He required women to bear at least five children, which resulted in 150,000 children being placed in state-run orphanages.
The Bucharest Dossier is a terrific debut. Its fast-paced plot, coupled with well-integrated historical facts, kept me hooked from beginning to end. Hefflin is a relatable protagonist, making it easy to invest in his journey. Maz’s writing is authentic, drawing from his own experiences growing up in Bucharest under communism.
This espionage thriller is worth your time. I’m looking forward to reading the follow-up, The Bucharest Legacy. 4 stars.
** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a comp of this novel. The opinions are my own.