Cover image of "The Bucharest Dossier," a spy novel about the Romanian Revolution

On Christmas Day, 1989, Romania’s long-time Communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena, were summarily executed by a firing squad after a two-hour sham trial. Thus came to an end forty-two years of Communist rule in the country. But, unlike the transfer of power in other East European countries that year, the Romanian Revolution was a bloody affair. More than a thousand died at the hands of the army and the dreaded Securitate, the secret police. Thousands more were injured. And all that turmoil comes to light in The Bucharest Dossier, a gripping novel about the Romanian Revolution by Romanian-American author William Maz.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

A CIA analyst on a fateful mission to Romania

Bill Hefflin is a man with many secrets. For starters, his name is not Hefflin. He is, in fact, Greek but was raised in Romania and speaks the language like a native—facts he shares with only a handful of those closest to him. A professor had recruited him for the CIA as an undergraduate at Harvard. He is now the top East European analyst at the Agency, the only analyst who handles an asset behind the Iron Curtain. And now his agent, a Russian code named Boris, has suddenly demanded he return to Bucharest to “create history.” Soon, Hefflin will find himself caught up in the tumultuous events of Romania’s Christmas Revolution—and come face to face with dangers no analyst should ever confront.

The Bucharest Dossier (Bill Hefflin #1) by William Max (2022) 326 pages ★★★★☆

Photo of tanks in Bucharest, as described in this novel about the Romanian Revolution
The Revolution Square of Bucharest during the Romanian Revolution, photographed from a broken window of the Athénée Palace Hotel shortly before Christmas day, 1989. Image: Neoclassicism Enthusiast – Wikimedia Commons

Revisiting old haunts in search of a lost love

Hefflin had decided never to return to Romania after so many years but has no choice. His boss, Director of Operations Dan Avery, has ordered him there. Boris is the Agency’s most valuable source in Eastern Europe, and Avery insists Hefflin meet with him. Once there, however, he sees the trip as an opportunity to locate the young girl named Pusha he has loved all his life. As children, they were inseparable. Now, he turns to their now-crumbling neighborhood, visits the old “Gypsy” woman he knew as a boy, and enlists an officer in the Securitate to track down Pusha through official records. Soon, with men following him everywhere he goes and threats to his life mounting, Bill Hefflin is a witness to the intrigue and cynical manipulation behind the violence of the Romanian Revolution.

Maz’s account in The Bucharest Dossier closely follows the known facts of the week-long series of events in Romania at the end of December 1989. As historical fiction, the book is a winner. And as a thriller, it offers all the suspense and surprises any reader might wish for. Its weakness lies in the unlikely coincidences at the heart of the plot. As the story hurtles toward its end, the pieces come together far too neatly to believe.

About the author

Photo of William Max, author of this novel about the Romanian Revolution
William Maz. Image: Pequot Library

The biography for William Maz on BookReporter reads: “Born in Bucharest, Romania, William Maz emigrated to the U.S. as a child. He is a graduate of Harvard University and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Following a residency in anesthesiology at Yale, he practiced medicine, and during that time, he developed a passion for writing fiction. He studied writing at Harvard, the New School and The Writer’s Studio in New York City, and is now writing full time. He divides his time between Pennsylvania and New York City. The Bucharest Dossier is his debut novel.”

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