The House of Spark by Luminita LaFlash

The House of Spark is a tale that evokes much about Romania’s political climate in the 1950s, where people did not know who to trust. Neighbours may be close to you within your community but if their political loyalties were different to yours, you might be in danger. It is an atmosphere of fear and mistrust and LaFlash’s book does well to create this in the opening pages of her novel.

As readers, we follow a key group of characters: Jenica, Virginia, Mircea and Doina. When Jenica fails to turn up to a performance of a concert, Virginia, his girlfriend, becomes anxious about what may have happened to him. As the days pass, it appears that he has disappeared off the face of the Earth.

A tense search begins and LaFlash’s narrative follows the characters as they try to find any clues from Jenica’s life that may help them to find him. This all happens in the first half of the book and it has all of the hallmarks of a thriller: clues that seem disconnected but must mean something; unidentified bodies; using contacts to gain insights from government organisations; searching rooms for secrets. It is well-paced and LaFlash conjures a real fear of discovery for the friends as we follow their search for the truth.

However, I found that the latter part of the book lost the momentum and tension that had been built so effectively at the start and it drifted a little for me, although I was still keen to find out the truth. The novel has a satisfying ending and the fact that it is based on the family history of the author herself lends it a validity that makes it worth reading.

LaFlash, in the writing of this book, provides not only a window into an oppressive regime, a time in Romania’s history where days were dark and people mysteriously disappearing was not uncommon, but she also shows the power of the few people working together in defiance of governmental dictates and standing up for what is right, in the face of and despite the obvious fear for what the repercussions could be for themselves and their loved ones.

This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.

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