Of all the dangerous places Tim Butcher has travelled while working on his travel books, his trip to Bosnia in 2012 does not, at first glance, rank highly. His first book – Blood River – following Henry Morton Stanley’s route down the Congo River through war torn Congo, contains danger and death at every step. In another work:Chasing The Devil, Butcherdescribes his 350 mile trek through West Africa; following in the footsteps of writer Graham Greene 70 years before.
However, right from the start of The Trigger, there is a sense that this trip could be just as dangerous as his African ventures: the memories of the Bosnian War are still fresh across the country – from the physical landmines to the anguish of a people still coming to terms with what happened.
The essence of The Trigger lies in Butcher’s quest to investigate the motives of GavriloPrincip; assassin of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914 and the man who lit the match on the First World War. He wants to find out why Princip is regarded by some Serbs as a hero while others desecrate his name. And most importantly, he wants to know whether Princip was acting in the name of Serbs only (as popular history would have it) or of South Slavs – an important question considering the recent divided history of the area.
Butcher sets out to follow the journey of a young Princip from his village in northwest Bosnia to Belgrade, and finally to Sarajevo – where the fateful shooting took place. Along the way, he explores the recent history of the country, balancing the stories of those he hears with his own interpretations of the Bosnian War from covering it as a young journalist
Switching between history and the modern context is something that has been present in Butcher’s previous books. But his own insight from his personal experiences of the Bosnian War give the book a more personal streak.
Despite the title of the book, the story is more broadly focused on a country that has lived under occupation for centuries. This resulted in a divided populace; a factor that caused a nation to tear itself apart.
Whether you are a First World War entrepreneur or a modern day adventurer, The Trigger has all the elements that make for an intelligent and gripping read.