Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello

There is something endlessly fascinating about the Romanovs.  Last Tsar of Russia, Alexie the son with the crippling illness, Rasputin the mad monk, the exile and brutal murder of the royal family, and the rumors of a survivor along with the mystery of the missing Romanov jewels.  This is just part of the backdrop of The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello.  

When a ship off the coast of Alaska sinks in the Bering Strait and a survivor clings to the lid of a coffin his fishing boat has caught, the army sends a disgraced former soldier and epidemiologist, Frank Slater,  to investigate.  The island graveyard dates from the early part of the 20th century and no one knows if the victims may host a viable virus from one of the deadliest plagues ever to walk the earth, the spanish flu, and if the melting permafrost is about to once again unleash it.

Masello works back and forth between the time of the Russian revolution and the eventual journey of Anastasia to a remote island between Russia and Alaska where followers of Rasputin have settled and the present time where Slater and his team try to investigate and contain the potentially deadly virus.

Masello’s character and settings really come alive.  His description of the harsh climate will make you feel the cold.  The main characters as well as the supporting cast in both timelines are three-dimensional and substantial.  The locales, both real and fictitious, are vivid.  Both storylines are compelling and the suspense as they converge is real.

There is a sense of the supernatural about the story as well, which works well with the myths surrounding Rasputin, and this atmosphere lends itself to the tension of the story.  

Robert Masello brilliantly works facts, supposition and invention  together to create a plausible, thrilling and haunting story.  This is a book not to be missed.  Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Afrika Reich, by Guy Saville

The Afrika Reich by Guy Saville is an action-filled alternative history thriller.  The premise of a world where Hitler defeated the British at Dunkirk and divided up Africa between the Nazi’s and the British is very intriguing and not terribly difficult to imagine.

This book is filled with a lot of action.  Fast-paced, bloody, gory, no-holds-barred action.  Sort of like Indiana Jones meets Rambo and it’s all directed by Quentin Tarantino.  The descriptions of violence are uncompromising.  There is an interesting plot of revenge and retribution on multiple levels.  The character development is thin and emotions consist mostly of rage and regret.  Double-crosses and secret plans that stretch across Africa and reach all the way back to Berlin and London keep the story interesting as the action moves across the continent leaving a trail of bodies and destruction behind.

The action scenes are very well-written, if extremely graphic.  The heroes can take an incredible amount of abuse and still keep ticking.  The scenery and in fact the whole alternate world are vividly and cinematically described.  

If you like non-stop action and vivid descriptions of battle, you will thoroughly enjoy this book.  More character depth and slightly more credulous actions may have taken this story to the next level, but all in all a fun and exciting read.  

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.