Bogomil Rainov is one of those authors, whom you either openly worship or you severely criticize. It actually depends on your point-of-view, or, to be honest, on your political preferences. I am not exaggerating even a bit because Rainov is known as one of the most prominent Communist authors in Bulgaria. If you have read at least one of his criminal novels, you will understand what I am talking about.
My first experience with Rainov was with the novel There is Nothing Better than Bad Weather, which I quite enjoyed. Emil Boev is not the typical investigating protagonist you may encounter. That is why I am not going to call him the Bulgarian Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, or even Mikael Blomkvist. Boev has his method of action and his own charm. His monologues, descriptions, and comments are full of self-irony, sarcasm, and a light sense of humour, which cannot leave the reader be bored even for a second. Of course, after the first novel, Rainov becomes a little bit predictable but still, if you fancy stories about secret agents, who try to uncover the traitors of Communist Mother Bulgaria, this type of literature is definitely for you.
The next two novels I read are Die as a Last Resort and Typhoons with Tender Names. I apologize for the poor translation in advance but I have no information about whether they have been actually translated in English at all. Anyways, in both novels we encounter Boev in a typical situation – trying to capture a Bulgarian traitor, who is selling important government information to foreigners. The only difference is that the first novel is set in London, while the second one – in Bern, Lausanne, and Geneve. All else is pretty much the same – Boev receives a task from the general and he has to travel to Europe, find the traitor, and capture (or liquidate) him. We are of course gently subjected to a sweet Communist propaganda – the traitors are the bad guys, who are so selfish as to sell even their mother country to the enemy. They need to be punished for treatening such a peaceful and ideal regime as the communist one. The European capitalists are also the bad guys, using every method and possibility to attack communism and bring it to its end. Here comes Boev aimed with the uneasy task of saving our country ONCE again.
What made Typhoons with Tender Names slightly better is the bitter chase of 9 legendary diamonds, whereas in Die as a Last Resort we are faced with a trivial drug contraband. I enjoyed Rainov’s novels but only as a slight distraction from my overwhelming everyday routine. Otherwise, I am not a huge fan of his type of writing. Do not get me wrong, it has nothing to do with the propaganda (although sometimes it gets a little bit too much). I just find Rainov predictable and repetitive. The three novels are more or less the same; only the place and several details about the situation are changed.
Still, we shouldn’t judge Mr. Rainov too harsh. After all, the freedom of speech in Communist Bulgaria was non-existent. If a writer wanted to be published, he had to write about the communists, or not write at all. Remember the case with Dimiter Dimov’s Tobacco. The author had to add a whole new plot line and a whole new love story and to shorten his original novel as to fulfill the ruling party’s requirements. Still, Dimov is an amazing author and this slight alternation didn’t in any way decrease the quality of his novel. I read the Communist version and still Tobacco is one of my favorite Bulgarian novels.
Rainov just chose the easy way around. Or he was really a communist believing in the world-wide conspiracy against Communism. Whatever the truth may be, I don’t really care. Although Boev sometimes utters a phrase worth remembering, more or less the novels are just a criminal story with a political touch. Definitely not my style of literature and I can safely say I am done with Mr. Rainov.