A Transylvanian named Attila Ambrus makes a daring escape from Ceaușescu's totalitarian Romania to try to make his luck in Hungary. Unfortunately, being a third rank goalie for a middling hockey club doesn't really pay the bills, especially as the Soviet Union falls apart and the nation begins a rough transition to a capitalist system. Fortunately, Attila is a charming and resourceful gentlemen and quickly finds ways to make end meet through pelt smuggling and a bit of bank robbery.
Rubinstein has found an amazing true story to anchor this non-fiction tale. Attila himself is fascinating and despite a variety of poor life choices has the pathos to provide this story its core. Critically, while no doubt a criminal, the man is a robber, not a gangster, which is why he became a widely adored Robin Hood-esque figure in his adopted land over the course of more than a score of often whiskey-fueled heists.
However, the book is more than just the superbly reported slice-life tale of a strangely compelling criminal. The book also follows the adventures of the police officers chasing him, but in a larger sense it tells of the triumphs and more often travails of Hungary and, to a lesser extent, Romania, as they chart a post-Soviet path. Suffice to say, Atilla is hardly the biggest crook in the country. This is a great story and an important one, as Prime Minster Viktor Orbán has been in the news in recent months for all the wrong reasons.
I would recommend the book for anyone with an interest in heists or contemporary Eastern Europe. But first and foremost, it is a character study of a fascinating man, by turns extravagant and self-effacing, who does extraordinary things in interesting times.
Source: Present from Moti, thanks Moti!