Residents of a small mountain town in Romania are bewildered by the discovery of a mass grave in journalist Florian’s fiction debut.
No one knows either the age or the origins of the bones found near the site of an old Roman fort, so the local policemen dutifully cart them off to be examined by the coroner. One rumor that seems plausible is that this was a site of a communist massacre. Major Maxim, leader of the local police, provides full access to the media; he wants to solve the mystery...or so it seems. Alternatively, it may be that he’s just barely clinging to his job and thinks answers about the mass grave will make him a hero. An archeologist named Mr. Petrus also seems on track to figure out the enigma, but his investigations are sidetracked by his amorous attraction to Jojo, granddaughter of Auntie Jenny, who years before had fallen in love with British businessman Lord Embury. Petrus begins a double life, carrying on an affair with Jojo while deceiving Auntie Jenny into believing that the young woman is in Bucharest taking exams. Florian frequently shifts narrative gears, following first one character and then another, and while he seems comfortable with this constant relocation, it’s somewhat dizzying for the reader. We’re abruptly introduced to Auntie Paulina, for example, who reads coffee grounds and begins “treating the signs in the coffee grounds as commandments.” Then it’s on to meet a man named Gherghe, who escapes from a prison camp and reinvents himself as a monk named Onufrie, convinced that the Virgin Mary descends from the skies to help him recover his health. Onufrie eventually begins the burial service at the mass grave and earns praise from a newspaper headlined, “A Monk Blesses the Bones of the Martyrs.”
An intriguing premise, but both characters and plot are bewilderingly and disconcertingly ambiguous.