VALLEY OF THE THRACIANS begins with grandfather Simon Matthews travelling from Chicago to Bulgaria in order to search for his grandson, Scott. Scott had gone missing while working for the Peace Corps three years previously, during which time the Bulgarian police, the American embassy and even Scott’s father Daniel have all given up, presuming Scott to be dead. Despite this, Simon insists on continuing the search, especially when he receives mysterious hints that Scott is actually still alive. Along the way Simon encounters the good, the not so good and the truly evil. He is joined in his quest by ‘Sophia from Sofia’, an expert in Thracian (ancient Bulgarian) history, whose help proves invaluable, but whose motives for putting herself out to aid a stranger come increasingly into question. Is Sophia really the loyal friend she seems?
From the very beginning VALLEY OF THE THRACIANS held me spellbound. This is a beautifully written thriller; every part of the story is completely absorbing, and it never feels as if the story is being dragged out unnecessarily. Such is Ellis Shuman’s skill with words that the reader feels part of the story. We share Simon’s unease as the mystery surrounding his grandson’s disappearance deepens. We share his fear when confronted by some wholly unsavoury characters in an unfamiliar country. Initially I felt relieved when Sophia offered help, but as Simon began to question her motives so did I. It’s impossible to dislike Sophia though, and her enthusiasm for Thracian history is contagious. Is this ancient Bulgarian civilisation in some way connected to the modern day disappearance of a young American man? The questions come thick and fast, and I’d recommend putting aside plenty of free time to read VALLEY OF THE THRACIANS because I found I didn’t want to put it down until I’d discovered the answers.
I’ve mentioned the author’s skill with words, and it’s worth giving a special mention to his descriptive narrative. Ellis Shuman is clearly very familiar with Bulgaria having lived there for some time, and his love for this relatively unknown country is obvious in the way he brings it to life on the pages of VALLEY OF THE THRACIANS. I’ve never been to Bulgaria, but I could clearly picture the beautiful mountains, the village communities, the storks sitting proud on top of chimneys, the patchwork fields and the ancient buildings. In the countryside modern tractors work beside horse drawn ploughs, western coffee shops and fast food chains reside in the cities alongside crumbling concrete tenements. Everywhere is evidence of Bulgaria’s past and of its future, all wonderfully described for the reader accompanying Simon deeper and deeper into his grandson’s unsolved mystery.
Would I recommend reading VALLEY OF THE THRACIANS? I most certainly would! If you’re looking for a gripping, mysterious thriller with convincing characters (both good and bad), beautiful descriptions, ancient relics and modern quests, betrayal, loyalty, compassion and brutality, then look no further. The excellent VALLEY OF THE THRACIANS has it all.
For as long as I can remember it has been my dream to become a published author, and finally this dream is coming true. My début novel, DORY’S AVENGERS, is out now, published by Book Guild Publishing of Brighton.