cover image The Shadow Land

The Shadow Land

Elizabeth Kostova. Ballantine, $28 (496p) ISBN 978-0-345-52786-8

A compelling and complex mystery, strong storytelling, and lyrical writing combine for an engrossing read set in the former Soviet-bloc nation of Bulgaria. Not long after Alexandra Boyd’s 2008 arrival in Sofia to teach English, she ends up with the wrong suitcase, which holds the remains of one Stoyan Lazarov in a carved box. She is determined to return it to the elderly couple traveling with their son, a handsome man who eventually haunts her dreams. Helping her on this quest is Asparuh Iliev, aka Bobby, an inscrutable taxi driver who believes in his nation’s beauty but fears for its future under the possible leadership of a powerful and wealthy politician whose anticorruption campaign is gaining political traction. They learn Lazarov was a talented violinist who faced political oppression. A parallel story line tells of Lazarov’s life. His attempt to become a concertmaster by currying favor with his orchestra’s Communist conductor has tragic consequences, setting up Kostova’s (The Historian) most emotional and harrowing moments. [em](Apr.) [/em]