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Novel set in BUCHAREST, Romania

21st February 2024

Sword by Bogdan Teodorescu, novel set in BUCHAREST, Romania.

TR: Marina Sofia

Sword is an international bestseller, written in Romanian and recently published in English for the first time by Corylus Books. It is a dark novel, but the focus of the book is not typical of noir novels. Although it is a murder mystery, it is centred on political intrigue: think Yes, Minister with much more jeopardy and few laughs. It raises a host of fascinating issues around racism, political manoeuvring, populism and expediency in the midst of a crisis.

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Sword is set in Romania, in a society that is still struggling with the echoes of communism and not yet fully integrated into the EU and NATO. The title is a nickname given to an unidentified murderer, whose first victim was an ethnic Roma and a criminal, who was found with a single stab wound to the throat. Further murders follow, with the same victim profile and modus operandi. Soon the case becomes a political football and the failure to identify and capture Sword becomes a major headache for the incumbent administration in Bucharest. The government has become complacent, and it is perceived that Romanian society is in decline, into poverty and petty crime. The opposition parties seem likely to swing the forthcoming election if the case isn’t solved. The moral panic that ensues is stoked by both pro- and anti-government media, with every political statement leading to unforeseen repercussions for the party in question. Sword himself becomes something of a hero for the nationalists, despite no one knowing his intentions or motivation.

Bogdan Teodorescu writes convincingly and engagingly, as well he might as a former journalist and political analyst. His characters are beautifully written, well-rounded but with fatal flaws. All the drawbacks of democracy and the political system are laid out for us to examine, including corruption, vice and self-interest. While I’m sure similar books could have been written about many democracies, especially post-communist societies, the plight of the Roma people makes this an especially Romanian story, and it is a privileged insight into another culture.

Sue for the TripFiction Team

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Catch our reviewer Sue on Twitter @SueKelsoRyan and on IG @SueKelosRyan

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