THE TRIGGER by Tim Butcher
Kirkus Star

THE TRIGGER

Taking the Journey that Led the World to War

KIRKUS REVIEW

The engrossing story of Gavrilo Princip (1894-1918), the 19-year-old Bosnian Serb nationalist whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on June 28, 1914, sparked World War I.

While covering the Bosnian War of the 1990s, former Daily Telegraph correspondent Butcher (Chasing the Devil: A Journey Through Sub-Saharan Africa in the Footsteps of Graham Greene, 2011, etc.) became intrigued by Princip after visiting a littered Sarajevo chapel that commemorated the assassin’s name. In 2012, he returned to the Balkans to follow the path of the young peasant’s life from his home in the remote hamlet of Obljaj (where Princip left his initials on a rock and declared, “One day people will know my name,”) to Sarajevo, where he became a student and “slow-burn revolutionary” determined to overthrow the Austro-Hungarian occupiers of his homeland. Butcher details the assassination (Princip’s first shot cut the Archduke’s jugular vein; the second killed his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg), the ensuing trial and the assassin’s death in prison from tuberculosis. The author’s intelligent, near-obsessive, textured account of the assassin’s life and times is a fascinating history of a complex region rife with ethnic rivalries and a vivid travelogue of a dangerous journey across a landscape marked by the minefields and devastation of the fighting of the 1990s. More broadly, Butcher makes clear the importance of Princip’s act as the spark that detonated an “explosive mix of old-world superiority, diplomatic miscalculation, strategic paranoia and hubristic military overconfidence.” Deliberately misrepresenting the assassin’s motives (which were to liberate not only Serbia, but all south Slavs), Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia, which led to World War I. Butcher notes that under different regimes, Princip has been remembered variously as a hero and a terrorist. The author views him as “an everyman for the anger felt by millions who were downtrodden far beyond the Balkans.”

A haunting and illuminating book marking the centennial of the assassination.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2325-1
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2014




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